Health at the borders: Bayesian multilevel analysis of women's malnutrition determinants in Ethiopia

Tefera Darge Delbiso, Jose Manuel Rodriguez-Llanes, Chiara Altare, Bruno Masquelier, Debarati Guha-Sapir

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Background: Women's malnutrition, particularly undernutrition, remains an important public health challenge in Ethiopia. Although various studies examined the levels and determinants of women's nutritional status, the influence of living close to an international border on women's nutrition has not been investigated. Yet, Ethiopian borders are regularly affected by conflict and refugee flows, which might ultimately impact health. Objective: To investigate the impact of living close to borders in the nutritional status of women in Ethiopia, while considering other important covariates. Design: Our analysis was based on the body mass index (BMI) of 6,334 adult women aged 20–49 years, obtained from the 2011 Ethiopian Demographic and Health Survey (EDHS). A Bayesian multilevel multinomial logistic regression analysis was used to capture the clustered structure of the data and the possible correlation that may exist within and between clusters. Results: After controlling for potential confounders, women living close to borders (i.e. ≤100 km) in Ethiopia were 59% more likely to be underweight (posterior odds ratio [OR]=1.59; 95% credible interval [CrI]: 1.32–1.90) than their counterparts living far from the borders. This result was robust to different choices of border delineation (i.e. ≤50, ≤75, ≤125, and ≤150 km). Women from poor families, those who have no access to improved toilets, reside in lowland areas, and are Muslim, were independently associated with underweight. In contrast, more wealth, higher education, older age, access to improved toilets, being married, and living in urban or lowlands were independently associated with overweight. Conclusions: The problem of undernutrition among women in Ethiopia is most worrisome in the border areas. Targeted interventions to improve nutritional status in these areas, such as improved access to sanitation, economic and livelihood support, are recommended.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number30204
JournalGlobal health action
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • conflict
  • natural disaster
  • overweight
  • refugee
  • underweight

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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