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Background: In genera self declared female headed-households in most developing countries tend to be poorer, own less and have less access to job opportunities.
Objective: To assess the nutritional status of preschoolers by gender differentiation of heads of households.
Design: A cross-sectional descriptive study carried out during February 2003.
Setting: Four benefi ciary villages registered under the Ethio-Danish joint community development programme in North Ethiopia.
Subjects: A total of 144 heads of random systematically selected households regrouped as male-headed (n=96) and female-headed households (n=48) with their respective preschoolers.
Main outcome measures: Nutritional status of two groups of children categorised by gender of the head of household.
Results: The number of preschoolers from male-headed households was 1.54 as opposed to the female-headed households (1.08). The proportion of stunted and underweight preschoolers was signifi cantly higher in female headed-households than in the maleheaded households while the prevalence of wasting was practically similar. The proportion of vaccinated and breastfed children, although not statistically signifi cant, was higher in male headed households while the practice of colostrums feeding, giving water and butter, Vitamin A and appropriate weaning was better in female
headed households. The difference noted in prevalence of feeding colostrums was signifi cant. The energy, protein and vitamin A intake in almost all of the households was below the recommended daily allowances; showing a nutrient adequacy ratio of 50.2%, 48.8% and 17.9% respectively whereas iron intake exceeded 100%. The energy, protein, vitamin A and iron intake was better in the male-headed households than in female-headed households. The difference, however, was statistically signifi cant
for energy only.
Conclusion: This study delineated that chronic child under-nutrition is not only higher among female children but also in female headed households and hence the implication of gender biased violation of the right to nutrition security. Other important implication of this study is that apart from gender issues alternative livelihood options that promote healthy behaviours, such as, improving the provision of health services and curbing the harmful traditional practices that may have a dual impact on the well being of mothers and children is recommended.

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