Almost 20 years have passed since micro-credit programs have been introduced in Malawi. Various reports had been written, but almost none has analyzed the link between micro-credit and nutritional status of children. This paper, therefore, focused at investigating the role of income obtained from micro-enterprises in improving nutritional status of children in Malawi.
A comprehensive cross-sectional study collected data on current levels of knowledge, attitude and practice of health in the households, and measured levels of different health indices (anthropometry, hematology, biochemistry, and parasitology) in the rural households in 2004/05 and 2010/11. Based on recent data, this research paper, however, focused on comparing micro-credit participants and non-participants through investigating the impact of income obtained from micro-enterprises in improving nutritional status of children in Malawi.
Using stratified random sampling, a total of 630 under-five children were identified from all 471 households. Of these, 251 households ran micro-enterprises funded by rural lending institutions, and 220 did not run micro-enterprises; and 353 and 277 under-five children were identified in the households, respectively. Children under the age of 5 years constitute approximately 17.2% of the Malawian population (MDHS, 2010), and in this research under-fives constitute 15% and 11.8% of the total 2350 persons in the 471 households surveyed with and without microenterprises, respectively.
Incomes obtained from micro-enterprises ran through micro-credits had positive but not significant impact on nutritional status of under-five children through additional expenditure on food items and/or medical provisions, other things being held constant. Possibly, the positive implications were through increased total income of households with micro-enterprises compared to those households without micro-enterprises, as well as, increased food and non-food expenditures per month for those households with micro-enterprises. Neither children from households with micro-enterprises nor children from households without micro-enterprises were better off on measurements of children nutrition status. However, children in households with micro-enterprises had significantly less sick days per month than those households without micro-enterprises. The difference is attributed mostly due to the extra income that was obtained from the micro-enterprises, and helped those households to buy medications for their children.
Involvement of women and men in owning and managing micro-enterprises funded by micro finance institutions has positive effects on total household income, and on food and non-food expenditures. But, anthropometric measurements have shown no significant differences in nutritional status of children between rural households with and without micro-enterprises in Malawi. The continued lack of access and inadequate credit (or micro-finance) for the resource poor rural households to run meaningful business have hardly helped the household to abate the grinding poverty including malnutrition among their children in Malawi