Original Research

Food insecurity and malnutrition in vulnerable households with children under 5 years on the Ecuadorian coast: a post-earthquake analysis


Maria Elisa Herrera-Fontana1 MSc, Professor

Aida Maribel Chisaguano2 PhD, Professor

Valeria Villagomez3 BSc, Student

Luzdary Pozo4 BSc, Student

Mónica Villar5 MSc, Professor

Nancy Castro6 MSc, Professor

Pablo Beltran7 PhD, Professor *


1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 Nutrición y Dietética, Escuela de Salud Pública, Facultad de Ciencias de la Salud, Universidad San Francisco de Quito, Ecuador

7 Colegio de Administración y Economía, Universidad San Francisco de Quito, Ecuador

ACCEPTED: 23 September 2019

early abstract:

Background: The household’s nutritional status and food security can be affected after a natural disaster, even more so in families who live in risk situations.

Objective: To determine the prevalence of food insecurity, dietary diversity and nutritional status of mothers and children under five years old from vulnerable families residing in the rural community of La Punta, after the earthquake in Ecuador on April 16th, 2016.

Methods: Through a non-probabilistic sampling, 28 families were selected. To determine the levels of food insecurity in households, we applied a food safety scale and household dietary diversity score (HDDS). Moreover, the Z-scores were used to evaluate the nutritional status of children whilst body mass index (BMI) was used in mothers.

Results: All households suffer food insecurity, with mild food insecurity being the most prevalent (51.9%), followed by severe food insecurity (33.3%). Although all households had high diversity scores, the products they most consume have low nutritional value, like rice, fizzy drinks and oils; on the other hand, there is a low consumption of foods such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Additionally, we found a high percentage of overweight and obese mothers (57.1%) and there was a high prevalence of chronic undernutrition (40.9%) and global undernutrition (13.6%) in children under 5 years old.

Conclusion: The predominance of severe food insecurity occurs in overweight and obese mothers with inadequate dietary diversity, thus showing its influence on the nutritional status of families; this probably happens because of a lack of access to food to adequately meet the nutritional needs of each member of the family. The results suggest that health promotion with actions aimed at food security is a priority within an integral action plan to prevent natural disasters.