CALVERTON, MD - A new national health survey finds that immunization rates in Benin are decreasing and child nutrition has worsened in recent years. In addition, fertility rates and unmet need for contraception continue to be high. The Ministry of Health recently released the 2006 Benin Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) at a ceremony in Cotonou. The nationally representative survey is based on interviews with more than 17,000 women age 15 to 49 and more than 5,000 men age 15 to 64. The last DHS survey was conducted in 2001.
Key findings from the 2006 Benin DHS are highlighted below.
In Benin, less than half of all children age 12 to 23 months (47 percent) have received all of their basic vaccinations. In 2001, by contrast, 59 percent of all children were fully immunized, a notable drop in immunization coverage.
Many children start but do not complete their immunization schedule. For example, nearly 90 percent of children age12 to 23 months receive their first polio vaccine, but only 64 percent get the third dose.
To be fully vaccinated, the World Health Organizations recommends a child receive one dose of BCG vaccine, three doses each of DPT and polio vaccines, and one dose of measles vaccine.
Malnutrition, especially undernutrition, among children in Benin is very high and has gotten worse in recent years. More than four in ten children (43%) are stunted or too short for their age and 22 percent are severely stunted. Stunting is a sign of chronic malnourishment, such as poor nutrition over time, or of a recurrent illness. In general, rural children and those whose mothers lack education have the highest percentages of stunting. Stunting is highest in Alibori at 63 percent.
Eight percent of children younger than five years are either moderately or severely wasted; that is, they have low weight for their height. Wasting is caused by acute malnourishment or a severe lack of food over a short period of time, such as during a famine or illness. Atacora (16%) and Donga (15%) have the highest levels of wasting in the country.
Eighteen percent of children are underweight; that is, they have a low weight for their age. About one-third of them are severely underweight. Being underweight can indicate both acute and chronic malnutrition. Alibori and Atacora have the highest percentage of underweight children at 30 percent each.
Fertility and family planning
On average, women in Benin have almost 6 children. The total fertility rate (TFR) or estimated number of children a woman will deliver in her lifetime is 5.7. There has been virtually no change in the fertility rate since 2001, when the total fertility rate was estimated to be 5.6. Rural women have more children than urban women, with a TFR of 6.3 compared to 4.9 in urban areas. As in other African countries, a woman's level of education also greatly influences the number of children she will have. Women with no education have an average of 6.4 children. Women with secondary education or higher have about 3.4 children.
Contraceptive use is low in Benin while unmet need for family planning is high. Only 6% of married women use modern contraception. There has been virtually no change in contraceptive use since 2001, when 7% of married women used a modern method. Thirty percent of married women, however, would like to limit or space their births but are not using modern contraception. Spacing children between three and five years is strongly associated with reduced infant mortality and better health for mothers and their children.
The 2006 Benin DHS was conducted by the Institut National de la Statistique et de l'Analyse Economique (INSAE) and the Programme National de Lutte contre le Sida (PNLS). Macro International Inc. provided technical assistance in the design, implementation and analysis of the survey as part of the Demographic and Health Surveys project (MEASURE DHS). Funding for the survey was provided by the Government of Benin, the European Union, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).