Child, Youth, and Family Studies, Department of


Date of this Version



Sridhar S, Kang JS, Madzorera I, Zulu E, Makasa J, Cross SB and Hamer DH (2023) Undernutrition in older children and adolescents in peri-urban Zambia. Front. Public Health 11:1251768. doi: 10.3389/fpubh.2023.1251768


Open access.


Background: Adolescents make up roughly a quarter of the population in Zambia; however, most nutrition-related programming is targeted at the underfive population. Understanding the scale of undernutrition in older children and adolescents is fundamental to alleviating food insecurity and addressing undernutrition across all age groups.

Methods: A cross-sectional survey was performed in four low-income, peri-urban compounds in Chilanga District which included anthropometric measurements of children between ages 6 months-19 years and a household-level diet diversity and food security questionnaire. Wasting was used for children under 5 and thinness for children 5–19 years. Descriptive analysis and multivariate logistic regression were conducted to quantify the prevalence and distribution of malnutrition and understand the impact of food security.

Results: We surveyed 393 households and 1,004 children between the ages of 6 months and 19 years. Children aged 6–9 years had the highest prevalence of severe thinness (5.2%) and adolescents (10–19 years) had the highest rates of moderate thinness (6.5%). Across all age groups, more than 75% of children were in households that worried about running out of food in the previous month. 24.9% of adolescents and 28.4% of older children were in households were more likely to go a whole day without eating compared to 16.9% of children under 5.

Conclusion: Our survey indicated that malnutrition in adolescents and older children living in Chilanga district was comparable to those under 5. Interventions to address undernutrition must be targeted at older children and adolescents in order to ameliorate this burden.