Abstract

 

Accepted 19th January, 2017

 

The mothers’ perception of malnutrition in relation to causality, signs and symptoms, prevention, treatment and curability can influence decision making and health care seeking behaviours. Therefore, to be effective, health education interventions should be anchored on a good understanding of the mother’s perspective. This qualitative study used three Focus Group Discussions with a total of 30 mothers from Chipata compound in Lusaka to explore the perceptions of mothers. Malnutrition was known as a common childhood disease and was considered to be fatal but curable if treated early. Early symptoms were difficult to know and were confused with other common childhood diseases such as worms, diarrhoea and malaria. Delays in care seeking were reported, arising from the practice of first treating symptoms at home and consulting local health systems. Hunger, lack of food, disease and poor feeding practices were said to be the major causes of malnutrition, however, beliefs in witchcraft, violation of sexual taboos and breastfeeding while pregnant featured in all the groups. Poverty, negative attitudes, working mothers, inexperienced carers and alcoholism were also mentioned. Mothers believed that modern medicine was effective in treating malnutrition while traditional medicine was indicated as an alternative. Social stigma was said to be a major stumbling block to care seeking. These findings point to the need to understand the knowledge and behaviour of the mothers, the cultural context, and other broader determinants and to address incorrect beliefs and misconceptions.

 

Keywords: Malnutrition; Perceptions; knowledge; Health care seeking behaviours; Mothers.