OBJECTIVE To estimate the prevalence of chronic health and nutritional conditions of schoolchildren in Ethiopia.
METHODS A cross-sectional survey in schools in each region randomly selected in proportion to size, then a random sample of 50–68 children in grades 3 and 4 in each school. Children were examined for signs of micronutrient deficiencies and chronic infections; weighed and measured;
provided a faecal sample to diagnose intestinal parasitic infections; and were interviewed about their recent diet and hygiene practices.
RESULTS A total of 7,572 children were studied in 142 schools in all 11 regions of Ethiopia. Nearly 17% of children were orphans. The prevalence of stunting was 22.3% and 23.1% of children were thin for age, but these may
be underestimates as there was evidence that age may have been estimated based on stature when children enrol in school. Just under 10% of children were anaemic when altitude was accounted for. The overall prevalence of
trachoma was 13% and children who washed their face before school were at lower risk of trachoma than children who had not. Children who reported that they had eaten fruit or vegetables the day before also had a lower risk of xerophthalmia than children who had not. Only 30% of children were infected with intestinal worms.
CONCLUSIONS Trachoma is a problem but anaemia and intestinal worms are relatively uncommon in Ethiopian schoolchildren. These data provide a basis for developing a school health policy and programmes.