Nigeria is a high burden country for stunting. Stunting reduction has been slow and characterized by unequal progress across the 36 states and federal capital territory of the country.
This study aimed to assess the changes in prevalence of stunting and growth determinants from 2003 to 2018, identify factors that predicted the change in stunting, and project future stunting prevalence if these predicted determinants improve. Trend and linear decomposition analyses of growth outcomes and determinants were conducted using 2003, 2008, 2013, and 2018 Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey data. Pooled data included 57,507 children 0 to 59 months old. Findings show that stunting and severe stunting significantly reduced from 43 to 37% and 23% to 17%, respectively (p < 0.001), between 2003 and 2018.
Disturbingly, height-for-age z-scores at birth significantly decreased, indicating risks of potential future stunting increase. Improvements in nine stunting determinants (maternal body mass index, maternal height, ≥ 4 antenatal care visits, health facility delivery, reduced child illnesses, asset index, maternal education, paternal education, and preceding birth interval) predicted stunting reductions in children 0–59 months. Few of these nine determinants improved in subpopulations with limited stunting progress. Intra-sectoral and multisectoral coordination were potentially inadequate; 12% of children had received all of three selected health sector interventions along a continuum of care and 6% had received all of six selected multisector interventions. Forward looking projections suggest that increased efforts to improve the nine predictors of stunting change can reduce under-five stunting in Nigeria to ≤ 27% in the short term.