A study of the prevalence of intestinal parasites, in preschool children in Kibera, Nairobi
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Background: Intestinal parasitic infections have been described as diseases of poverty and underdevelopment because they have been linked to lack of sanitation, lack of access to safe water and improper hygiene. These parasitic diseases deprive the poorest of the' poor of health thus contributing to their economic instability and social marginalization. They experience a cycle where under nutrition and repeated infections lead to excess morbidity that can continue from generation to generation. Objectives: This study was primarily aimed at determining the prevalence of intestinal parasites among pre-school children aged two to five years living in Kibera. Secondary objectives were to determine the relationship between intestinal parasitic infections and nutritional status and blood hemoglobin level of the same children. Methods: A cross-sectional survey was conducted from May to June 2011 in Kibera, Nairobi. Multi-stage random sampling was used to select five villages from the area, from each of these villages, thirty-one households were selected. A total of 155 children aged 2-5 years were recruited. The study used structured questionnaire surveys, anthropometric tools and laboratory methods (stool test to obtain geohelminths and protozoa and total blood count to obtain hemoglobin levels). Approval to carry out the study was obtained from the KNH Ethics and Research Committee. Results: 151 children took part in the survey. The results showed the overall prevalence of intestinal parasitic infection was 41.1 %. Ascaris lumbricoides was the commonest geohelminth with a prevalence of 14.6%, followed by Hookworm (2.6%). The prevalence of pathogenic protozoa was 23.2% namely Entamoeba histolytica 15.2%, Giardia lamblia7.3% and multiple infestation 0.7%. The overall prevalence of severe wasting, severe stunting and severe underweight was 3.3%, 31.5% and 11.9% respectively. The prevalence of anemic children (Hb<9g/dl) was 27.2% with 3.3% found to have severe anemia (Hb<7g/dl). Conclusion: The prevalence of intestinal parasitic infections among the pre-school age children living in Kibera is very high at 41.1 %, however there was no significant association found, between the prevalence of intestinal parasitic infections and the child's nutritional status. Socio-demographic characteristics of the household found to influence the children's nutritional status were the education level of the primary caregiver and the weekly food expenditure amount.