Access to basic sanitation facilities reduces the prevalence of anaemia among women of reproductive age in sub-saharan Africa
Background: The prevalence (≈ 30%) of anaemia among women of reproductive age in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is a significant concern. Additionally, less than half of households in the region have access to basic sanitation facilities, raising questions about the potential role of poor sanitation in increasing anaemia prevalence. To address this, we examined the relationship between access to basic sanitation facilities and the prevalence of anaemia among women of reproductive age in SSA.
Methods: The study analysed cross-sectional household-level Demographic and Health Survey data from selected SSA countries. A total of 100,861 pregnant and non-pregnant women aged 15 to 49 from 27 countries were analysed. Access to basic sanitation and haemoglobin (Hb) levels were classified using WHO and UNICEF standards. To examine the link between access to basic sanitation facilities and the prevalence of anaemia, a multilevel regression analysis was conducted, which adjusted for country fixed-effects to ensure that the findings were not biassed by variations in country-level factors.
Results: Nearly 37% (95% CI: 36.4, 37.9) of households had access to basic sanitation facilities, and 41% (95% CI: 40.8, 42.1) of women had Hb levels that indicated anaemia. Women with access to basic sanitation had a lower risk of anaemia than those without access (AOR = 0.95; 95% CI: 0.93, 0.98, p < 0.01). Factors, including maternal age, education, marital status, breastfeeding, health insurance enrollment, and wealth group, were also associated with anaemia prevalence.
Conclusions: Anaemia is a severe public health problem among women of reproductive age across all 27 SSA countries analysed, with nearly four in ten being affected. Access to basic sanitation facilities was associated with a reduced anaemia risk. However, only slightly over a third of households had access to such facilities. Further research is required to examine the underlying mechanisms and inform effective interventions.