The effect of child fostering on feeding practices and access to health services in rural Sierra Leone

Caroline H. Bledsoe*, Douglas C. Ewbank, Uche C. Isiugo-Abanihe

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

86 Scopus citations

Abstract

In Sierra Leone, where infant and child mortality rates are quite high, a large proportion of small children from 1 to 5 yr are fostered: living away from their mothers. This paper examines the relationships between fosterage and child feeding practices and children's access to Western medical care. Ethnographic data from field studies in Sierra Leone are combined with quantitative data from Serabu Hospital, which show that fostered children are underrepresented in hospital admissions and that young fosters present more problems of malnutrition. (Fostered girls appear to be at more risk in both these categories than boys.) Unlike young fosters, however, older ones do not appear to be at more risk than children with mothers. We draw connections between these results and patterns of intrahousehold discrimination in food allocation and access to medical treatment for young fostered children: especially those sent to elderly rural caretakers. Finally, we examine the implications of the findings for applied issues, arguing that fostered children may slip through the cracks of maternal-child health care programs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)627-636
Number of pages10
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Volume27
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - 1988

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science

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