Epidemiologic Health Survey of a Rural Peasant Association in Southwestern Ethiopia
In many developing countries, health care is either severely inadequate or ineffective. This is especially true in Ethiopia where the rates of infant mortality, child mortality, and maternal mortality are approximately 10-100 times higher than those found in developed countries. However, reliable and comprehensive data on the incidence and prevalence of endemic diseases in many regions of the country are scarce. In the present study, we performed a cross-sectional census survey of a rural peasant association in the Jimma region in southwestern Ethiopia to (i) gather demographic and socioeconomic characteristics of the community and (ii) assess the primary health problems facing the children and women of childbearing age. Our data demonstrate that there was a significant lack of proper sanitation and personal hygiene: 90% of households shared living space with domestic animals, less than 10% of households were equipped with a latrine, and nearly 40% of all water was obtained from unprotected springs and rivers. Of the 166 women of childbearing age (15-49 years), only 13.8% had any knowledge of methods of contraception, and almost 90% had experienced a teenage pregnancy. Less than 2% of all deliveries were aided by trained traditional birth attendants or health professionals. The two-week period prevalence of acute childhood diarrhea was 26.3% and less than 10% of all diarrheal cases were treated with oral rehydration solution. Regarding the nutritional status of children under five years of age, 56.3% were suffering from moderate to severe protein-energy malnutrition based on weight for age, and 57% were moderately to severely stunted based on height for age measurements. Finally, over 90% of randomly chosen individuals were found to be positive for an intestinal parasitic infection. The results demonstrate that there is a great need for improvement in several basic health areas, including the environmental sanitary conditions of the community, as well as the fundamental health status of women and children. Our findings suggest that specific intervention programs must be initiated in order to address the basic health problems facing this rural community.
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