Document Type



Community Health Sciences



Pakistan ranks third lowest on a global gender index (2013) and 13(th) highest on the prevalence of underweight among under-five children (2010). Through this population-based study, we examined gender differentials in the prevalence of stunting, wasting and under-weight defined by World Health Organization (WHO) Growth Standard among rural pre-school Pakistani children.


We performed secondary analysis of data collected through a cross-sectional survey of Thatta district during 1992-93. Prevalence ratios were calculated for 1051 children aged 0-35 months from 95 randomly selected villages of rural Pakistan using a clustered adjusted log binomial model. Level 1 variables included child and household characteristics and level 2 included village characteristics.


Based on the new WHO growth reference, a major proportion of children were stunted (52.9 %), wasted (22.9 %) and under-weight (46.5 %). In a two-level model, compared to boys, girls had significantly greater risk of stunting [Prevalence Ratio (PR) (95 % C.I.) = 1.18 (1.03, 1.36)] and under-weight [P.R. (95 % C.I.) 1.14 (1.03, 1.26)], after adjustment of maternal literacy and village variables. Risk of wasting did not differ with gender [P.R. (95 % C.I.) = 1.04 (0.99, 1.15)]. Mothers of stunted and underweight children were respectively, 21 and 20 % more likely to be illiterate than those of normally nourished children. Sick children were at 16 % greater risk of wasting than those not reported ill.


Greater prevalence of stunting and under-weight among girls suggests adoption of a gender sensitive approach in nutritional intervention programmes. Prompt management of childhood illnesses may reduce prevalence of wasting. Better literacy among rural mothers may reduce prevalence of stunting and under-weight. Whether gender differences in nutrition status are an underlying pathway for excessive girl mortality in rural Thatta needs further examination.

Publication (Name of Journal)

International Journal for Equity in Health

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.