ISSN: 2319-9865

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Research Article Open Access

Gender, Underweight and Dietary Practices Among Male and Female Adolescents in Pastoral Community, Kenya



Many boys and girls in developing countries transition to adolescence undernourished, making them more vulnerable to disease and mortality. Growth during adolescence is faster than any other period of life leading to increased requirements for both macro and micronutrient. High vulnerability to under nutrition has been expressed more on adolescent girls despite similar stage of growth for both males and females. This necessitates more information on gender influence on under nutrition and dietary practices especially in resource poor environments with rich cultural practices such as pastoral Samburu community in Kenya.


The study design is cross sectional with both quantitative and qualitative components for in-depth understanding of the parameters in context of the target population that targeted 490 male and female adolescents based on probability proportionate to population size. Simple random sampling method was used to reach adolescent respondents in each cluster in Samburu Central sub-county. Questionnaires, in-depth interview, and Focus Group Discussion guides were used to collect data. Quantitative data was analyzed and presented descriptively as frequencies and percentages and inferentially as odds ratio, Chi-square and t-test. Content analysis was done on qualitative data and information triangulated with quantitative data for in-depth understanding of the context of study findings.


Low education level was observed among the adolescents where 21.9% dropped out of primary school while 21.9% completed primary education. There was no difference in gender distribution in both primary and secondary schools’ enrolment (χ2, p>0.05). The married adolescents were more likely to be females than males (χ2, p<0.001). The adolescents aged 10-14 years were two times more likely to be underweight compared to 15-19-year-old (OR,2.101; CI,1.331-3.317; P=0.001). Males aged 15-19 years associated with underweight (χ2, p=0.049). Females had significantly higher Mean Dietary Diversity Score (MDDS) at 3.93 ± 1.39 compared to 3.59±1.40 of their male counterparts (t-test, p=0.007). Male adolescents (59.9%) were more likely to consume less than 4 food groups compared to the 35.3% female counterparts (χ2, p<0.001).


Adolescents in Samburu pastoral community are vulnerable to malnutrition that is associated to poor dietary practices that are further compromised by cultural gender roles that place the male adolescent at a higher risk. Culture sensitive interventions are recommended to reduce malnutrition and all its forms in this group.

Judith Munga 1*, Laura Kige2, Lucy Maina2, Peter L’Parnoi3, Catherine Lengewa3, Esther Kariuki3*, Festus Kiplamai4

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