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Prevalence, correlates of undernutrition and intestinal parasitic infection among children below 5 years living in the forest community of Ndelele, East Region of Cameroon: A cross-sectional assessment

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In low- and middle-income countries, undernutrition often co-exists with intestinal parasites, especially Soil Transmitted Helminth (STH) infections in children. The collective impact of both conditions result in undernutrition and can exacerbate the general poor health status of children. A cross-sectional survey of 422 mother-child (12–59 months old) pairs from 14 villages in the District of Ndelele, East Region of Cameroon, was carried out to assess the magnitude and correlates of undernutrition and intestinal parasites. Socio-demographic data were collected from mothers and anthropometric data were collected from children. Parasitological assessment was performed using a combination of direct microscopy flotation, sedimentation and centrifugation techniques. Correlates of undernutrition and intestinal parasites were identified using multinomial logistic regression at individual and household levels. 83.77% of the children assessed for undernutrition were undernourished and 66.82% were positive for one or more intestinal parasites. It was not uncommon for the study participants to be concurrently infected with two or more intestinal parasites. The most common intestinal parasitic infections detected in the study were A. lumbricoides, E. histolytica/dispar and Hookworm infection. Multinomial logistic regression using Nutritional status as outcome showed that, children who were not exclusively breastfed were 106% (RR = 2.06; C.I = 1.12–3.80) more likely to be underweight compared to those who were exclusively breastfed. The household size of 4 to 6 persons also significantly impacted wasting (p-value = 0.007) at 7% (RR = 1.07, C.I = 0.49–2.32). Analysis by a logistic regression model with STH infection as outcome revealed that, Fingernail cleanness (p-value = 0.044; AOR = 1.75; CI = 1.09–2.78) and household size (p-value = 0.038; AOR = 0.55; CI = 0.32–0.92) were positively associated with intestinal parasite infection at the 5% significant level. This study reveals that intestinal helminthic parasitic infections (STH) and undernutrition are serious health problems in children below five in the study area. To address this dire situation, concerted efforts are needed to improve sanitation, hygiene education access, community deworming programs, and improve diets.

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