Open Access Research article

Exploring variations in childhood stunting in Nigeria using league table, control chart and spatial analysis

Victor T Adekanmbi12*, Olalekan A Uthman34 and Oludare M Mudasiru1

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Public Health, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria

2 Center for Evidence-based Global Health, Ilorin, Nigeria

3 Warwick - Centre for Applied Health Research and Delivery (WCAHRD), Division of Health Sciences, Warwick Medical School, The University of Warwick, Coventry, , CV4 7AL, UK

4 Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, International Health Group, Liverpool, Merseyside, UK

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Public Health 2013, 13:361  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-361

Published: 18 April 2013



Stunting, linear growth retardation is the best measure of child health inequalities as it captures multiple dimensions of children’s health, development and environment where they live. The developmental priorities and socially acceptable health norms and practices in various regions and states within Nigeria remains disaggregated and with this, comes the challenge of being able to ascertain which of the regions and states identifies with either high or low childhood stunting to further investigate the risk factors and make recommendations for action oriented policy decisions.


We used data from the birth histories included in the 2008 Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) to estimate childhood stunting. Stunting was defined as height for age below minus two standard deviations from the median height for age of the standard World Health Organization reference population. We plotted control charts of the proportion of childhood stunting for the 37 states (including federal capital, Abuja) in Nigeria. The Local Indicators of Spatial Association (LISA) were used as a measure of the overall clustering and is assessed by a test of a null hypothesis.


Childhood stunting is high in Nigeria with an average of about 39%. The percentage of children with stunting ranged from 11.5% in Anambra state to as high as 60% in Kebbi State. Ranking of states with respect to childhood stunting is as follows: Anambra and Lagos states had the least numbers with 11.5% and 16.8% respectively while Yobe, Zamfara, Katsina, Plateau and Kebbi had the highest (with more than 50% of their under-fives having stunted growth).


Childhood stunting is high in Nigeria and varied significantly across the states. The northern states have a higher proportion than the southern states. There is an urgent need for studies to explore factors that may be responsible for these special cause variations in childhood stunting in Nigeria.

Stunting; Nigeria; League table; Childhood stunting