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Background: Iron depletion results from reduced iron stores, and it is an early stage of disease progression before iron deficiency, which leads to iron deficiency anaemia (IDA). IDA is associated with delayed infant growth and development, diminished cognitive function, poor academic performance, decreased exercise tolerance, and impaired immune function.
This study aimed to determine the prevalence of iron depletion and IDA and factors associated with low ferritin levels among children under 5-years-old receiving care at Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre (KCMC) in Moshi, Tanzania.
Methods: Under-5 children presenting at KCMC were successively enrolled and screened for iron depletion and IDA using complete blood count and serum ferritin levels. The generally accepted World Health Organization cut‑off levels for normal haemoglobin (Hb) and ferritin level were used. Iron depletion, iron deficiency, and IDA prevalences were estimated in relation to the combination measures of haemoglobin, mean corpuscular volume, and ferritin levels. Dietary and sociodemographic characteristic of the children were recorded after parents or caretakers provided informed consent. Data analysis was conducted using SPSS version 21.0.
Results: A total of 303 children aged 2 to 59 months were enrolled in the study. Anaemia was detected in169 (55.8%) children. Children aged 2 to 12 months had a higher prevalence of anaemia (n=101, 60.1%). The overall prevalences of iron depletion, iron deficiency with no anaemia, and IDA were 2.6% (n=8), 9.6% (n=29), and 28.1% (n=84), respectively. Low ferritin levels were detected in 124 (40.9%) children. Drinking more than 500 ml of cow's milk per day was associated with an increased risk of anaemia (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] 5.6; 95% confidence interval [CI], 2.6 to 12.1) relative to those not drinking cow's milk. Children whose families had meals that included beef more than 3 times per week were less likely to have low ferritin (AOR 0.6; 95% CI, 0.3 to 1.3), though the difference was not significant.
Conclusion: The IDA prevalence among children in the Kilimanjaro area was high, with more than 50% of infants being anaemic. Drinking cow's milk was associated with an increased risk of IDA. Future community-based research is recommended to elucidate more details about iron deficiency in the general population.