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Open Access Research

Growth and development of children aged 1–5 years in low-intensity armed conflict areas in Southern Thailand: a community-based survey

Rohani Jeharsae12*, Rassamee Sangthong2, Wit Wichaidit2 and Virasakdi Chongsuvivatwong2

Author Affiliations

1 Faculty of Nursing (Establishment Project), Prince of Songkla University, Pattani Campus, Pattani, Thailand

2 Epidemiology Unit, Prince of Songkla University, Hat Yai Campus, Hat Yai, Thailand

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Conflict and Health 2013, 7:8  doi:10.1186/1752-1505-7-8

Published: 4 April 2013

Abstract

Background

A low-intensity armed conflict has been occurring for nearly a decade in southernmost region of Thailand. However, its impact on child health has not yet been investigated. This study aimed to estimate the prevalence of delayed child growth and development in the affected areas and to determine the association between the violence and health among children aged 1–5 years.

Methods

A total of 498 children aged 1–5 years were recruited. Intensity of conflict for each sub-district was calculated as the 6-year average number of incidents per 100,000 population per year and classified into quartiles. Growth indices were weight-for-age, height-for-age, and weight-for-height, while development was measured by the Denver Development Screening Test II (Thai version). Food insecurity, child-rearing practice, health service accessibility, household sanitation, and depression among the caregivers were assessed using screening scales and questionnaires. Contextual information such as average income and numbers of violent events in each sub-district was obtained from external sources.

Results

Growth retardation was highly prevalent in the area as reported by rates of underweight, stunting, and wasting at 19.3%, 27.6% and 7.4%, respectively. The prevalence of developmental delay was also substantially high (37.1%). Multi-level analysis found no evidence of association between insurgency and health outcomes. However, children in areas with higher intensity of violence had a lower risk of delay in personal-social development (OR = 0.4; 95% CI = 0.2 - 0.9; p-value = 0.05).

Conclusion

Unlike war refugees and internally-displaced persons in camp-like settings, the relationship between level of armed conflict and growth and developmental delay among children aged 1–5 years could not be demonstrated in the community setting of this study where food supply had been minimally perturbed.

Keywords:
Children; Growth; Development; Conflict; Thailand