Maternal Time Use Drives Suboptimal Complementary Feeding Practices in the El Niño-Affected Eastern Ethiopia Community

Asnake Ararsa Irenso, Shiferaw Letta, Addisu S. Chemeda, Abiyot Asfaw, Gudina Egata, Nega Assefa, Karen J. Campbell, Rachel Laws

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Ethiopia is affected by recurrent drought and food-insecurity crises, including El Niño. El Niño started in mid-2014, worsened in 2015, and continued in 2016, leading to a widespread food-insecurity emergency resulting in a surge in the rate of acute malnutrition in infants due to suboptimal feeding practices. This study explored how El Niño influenced complementary feeding practices in the eastern Ethiopia community from March to September 2016. It was an exploratory qualitative study with a basic interpretative qualitative approach. A general inductive approach was used for the analysis. The study involved 11 focus group discussions (FGD) with a total of 76 people, including three with mothers, three with Health Development Army (HDA) leaders, two with fathers, two with traditional birth attendants, and one with religious leaders. El Niño resulted in failed crops and loss of livestock, resulting in reduced dietary diversity and meal frequency. El Niño resulted in suboptimal complementary feeding practices by reducing food access and altering livelihood and coping strategies, reducing the time mothers allocated to child feeding, keeping them away from home, and stressing community health services. The maternal suboptimal time allocation is central to the poor complementary feeding practices. Thus, the women should be supported with climate-resilient livelihood options in their villages, allowing them to feed their children and attend education sessions with HDA leaders.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3937
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Child malnutrition
  • Complementary feeding practices
  • El Niño
  • Ethiopia
  • Maternal time use

Cite this