Academic Publication

“Then you raise them with Shirchoy or cookies”: Understanding influences on delayed dietary diversity among children in Tajikistan

Ann C. Klassen
Brandy Joe Milliron
Yuki Suehiro
Safina Abdulloeva
Beth Leonberg
Suzanne Grossman
Margaret Chenault
Lisa Bossert
Jalal Maqsood
Rauf Abduzhalilov
Malika Iskandari
NCBI Maternal and Child Nutrition
Publication Year:
  • SDG 1 - No Poverty
  • SDG 2 - Zero Hunger
  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-Being
  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities

A study conducted in Tajikistan with groups of pregnant women, mothers of young children, fathers, and mothers-in-law during the spring of 2016 conveys the challenges of dietary diversity. The barriers found include poverty, food scarcity, gradual introduction of household diet components, expenses (meat), and food taboos.


Dietary diversity is a key component of infant and young child feeding (IYCF) as well as adult health. In Tajikistan, a predominantly rural, former Soviet country in Central Asia, we conducted formative research to identify barriers to dietary diversity and strategies for nutrition behaviour change. In Spring, 2016, mixed‐methods data collection took place across 13 villages in all five regions, collecting collaborative mapping; structured assessments of stores and markets; home visits for dietary recalls; food storage, preparation, and meal observations; focus groups with pregnant women, mothers of young children, fathers, and mothers‐in‐law; and in‐depth expert interviews with local nutrition and health influentials. Overall, maternal diet was adequate in terms of diversity (only 13% reported <5/10 food groups in the past 24 hr); however, only 42% of index children 6–24 months met WHO guidelines for diversity, and only 34% met minimum acceptable diet criteria. In addition to issues of poverty and food scarcity, qualitative data reveal many behavioural barriers to timely introduction of diverse complementary foods. Women's strategies focused on gradual introduction of household diet components, without regard for diversity or nutrition. Foods such as meat were seen as costly and thus inappropriate for IYCF, and food taboos (i.e., fresh vegetables) further reduced diversity. Infant food preparation methods such as grinding were seen as impractical, and many foods were withheld until children develop teeth. Possible nutrition education strategies include point‐of‐ purchase campaigns to improve availability and appeal of IYCF‐friendly foods, as well as influencing other key household members through mosques, schools, and health care providers.


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