BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVE:
There is no published information on the prevalence of malnutrition in Saudi Arabia. The objective of this study was to establish the prevalence data.
The prevalence of nutritional indicators in the form of underweight, stunting, and wasting in a national sample of children younger than 5 years of age was calculated using the new WHO standards as reference. Calculations were performed using the corresponding WHO software. The prevalence of moderate and severe underweight, wasting and stunting, was defined as the proportion of children whose weight for age, weight for height, and height for age were below –2 and –3 standard deviation scores, respectively.
The number of children younger than 5 years of age was 15 516 and 50.5% were boys. The prevalence of moderate and severe underweight was 6.9% and 1.3%, respectively. The prevalence of moderate and severe wasting was 9.8% and 2.9%, respectively. Finally, the prevalence of moderate and severe stunting was 10.9% and 2.8%, respectively. The prevalence was lower in girls for all indicators. Comparison of the prevalence of nutritional indicators in selected countries demonstrates large disparity with an intermediate position for Saudi Arabia.
This report establishes the national prevalence of malnutrition among Saudi children. Compared to data from other countries, these prevalence rates are still higher than other countries with less economic resources, indicating that more efforts are needed to improve the nutritional status of children.