Reducing Anemia Prevalence in Afghanistan: Socioeconomic Correlates and the Particular Role of Agricultural Assets

Reducing Anemia Prevalence in Afghanistan: Socioeconomic Correlates and the Particular Role of Agricultural Assets

Anemia is a nutrition problem of global importance. Based on data from 107 countries worldwide, Stevens et al. [1] estimated that 29% of non-pregnant women (translating to 496 million non-pregnant women), 38% of pregnant women (translating to 32 million pregnant women) and 43% of children (translating to 273 million children) suffer from anemia.

This research aims to examine the socio-economic correlates of anemia in women, and potential sources of iron in household diets in Afghanistan. It also examines whether ownership of agricultural (particularly livestock) assets and their use in food production has a role in alleviating anaemia, especially where local markets may be inadequate. The authors analyse data from the 2010/11 Afghanistan Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey, estimating a logistic regression to examine how anemia status of women is associated with socio-economic covariates.

A key result found is that sheep ownership has a protective effect in reducing anemia (prevalence odds ratio of sheep ownership on anemia of 0.83, 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.73–0.94) after controlling for wealth and other covariates. This association is found to be robust to alternative model specifications. Given the central role of red meat in heme iron provision and absorption of non-heme iron, the authors hypothesise that sheep ownership promotes mutton consumption from own-production in a setting where market-sourced provision of nutritious food is a challenge.

The research then uses the 2011/12 National Risk and Vulnerability Assessment household data to understand the Afghan diet from the perspective of dietary iron provision, and to understand interactions between own-production, market sourcing and mutton consumption. Sheep ownership is found to increase the likelihood that a household consumed mutton (odds ratio of 1.27, 95% CI: 1.15–1.42), the number of days in the week that mutton was consumed (prevalence rate ratio of 1.24. 95% CI: 1.12–1.37) and the quantity of mutton consumed (7 grams/person/week). In the subsample of mutton consumers, households sourcing mutton mostly from own production consumed mutton 1.5 days more frequently on average than households relying on market purchase, resulting in 100 grams per person per week higher mutton intake. Thus this analysis lends support to the notion that the linkage between sheep ownership and anemia risk is at least partly due to consumption arising from own-production in the presence of market incompleteness.

  1. How good is this research?

    Assessing the quality of research can be a tricky business. This blog from our editor offers some tools and tips.