The Almajiri community of Ibadan is essentially made up of individuals from both ends of the age spectrum, who live off begging. The impoverished community migrates from the Northern Nigeria down south to form communities of individuals dependent on alms from members of the larger society.
It was expected that the deprived economic status of the Almajiri people would predispose their children to malnutrition – an association seen regularly- and it was the purpose of this study to determine if this association between poverty and malnourishment truly exists in this community and to determine the extent of such an association.
A randomised cross-sectional descriptive study was carried out involving Almajiri children (ages ranging from 5 years to 16 years) of the Sabo Community along Jembewon road, Ibadan. The study involved the creation of questionnaires which were administered by a team of about 50 volunteers, mostly students of the University of Ibadan who had been trained for the purpose. The questionnaires were modelled to collect specific anthropometric data relating to the: height (in metres) and weight (in kg), from which the Body Mass Indices (BMI) of the respondents were calculated in kg/m2. Equipment used include: weighing scales for weight measurement and stadiometers for height measurement. The language barrier between the primarily Hausa speaking respondents and the largely English-speaking volunteers was surmounted by the services of six experienced translators. The BMI-for-age z scores were then derived from the latest CDC Growth Charts. Data obtained was recorded and analysed using the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) Version 25.
We had a total number of respondents of 150 children consisting of 91 girls (60.67%) and 59 boys (39.33%). Of this number a total of 24 children (16%) were underweight; 8 children (5.33%) were overweight; 9 children (6%) were obese and 109 children (72.67%) were of normal weight. Defining this result based on gender: 11.86% of boys and 18.68% of girls were underweight; 6.78% of boys and 4.40% of girls were overweight; 5.10% of boys and 6.60% of girls were obese while 76.27% of boys and 70.33% of girls were of normal weight.
In reference to the results obtained, we realise that there seems to be a male preference in the nutrition of the children with an additional 6.82% of girls found to be underweight. This could depict cultural male preference practices known be widespread in traditional Hausa communities. Interestingly, the results also reveal that the children are generally not more malnourished than children belonging to a higher socio-economic class. This could be explained by the consistent stream of food and alms donated daily by members of the wider community. The resultant effect of this is that there is then little to no motivation for the adults of the community to seek quality education for their children towards their emancipation from the situation of poverty.