CAPE TOWN – The 2020 South African Child Gauge report found that the nutritional status of South African children is deteriorating.
The report is published annually by the Children’s Institute at the University of Cape Town (UCT) to examine the situation of children in South Africa and inform evidence-based policies and programs.
The report focuses attention and identifies leverage points to improve children’s nutritional outcomes, calling for strong leadership and concerted action from government, civil society and the private sector to ensure respect for children’s rights.
The report found that one in four children under the age of 5 suffers from stunted growth, a sign of chronic undernutrition that has remained unchanged for 20 years.
During the same period, one in eight children under the age of 5 is overweight or obese – double the global average.
In a statement released by the university on Friday, he said the double burden of malnutrition could occur in the same household or even in the same individual.
He said that children who are stunted early in life are at greater risk of becoming obese, with the prevalence increasing throughout life, especially among 28% of adolescent girls and 64% of adult women.
This increases the risk of developing non-communicable diseases, such as certain cancers, heart disease, diabetes, and severe Covid-19 infection.
He further stated that the burden of child malnutrition remains unacceptable for a middle-income country, making it an outlier among countries of similar wealth.
The root of the problem, according to the study, stems from apartheid and the continued inability to uproot poverty and inequality.
“Twenty-five years after the advent of democracy, South Africa remains the most unequal country in the world. Poverty has a profoundly detrimental effect on the care, health and development of children, with young children from the poorest households being three times more likely to be stunted than those from the richest 20% of households ”, indicates the report.
UCT Vice Chancellor Prof. Mamokgethi Phakeng said children who manage to survive malnutrition continue to carry evil in their body, mind and spirit for the rest of their lives.
She said it didn’t end there; by attacking children, malnutrition erodes national development and a nation that starves its children is also dying of hunger.
In South Africa, 35% of children live below the food poverty line in households with a per capita income of less than Rand 571 (USD 39) per month.
According to the Ministerial Committee of the National Department of Health for Morbidity and Mortality in Children under 5, one of the three main causes of infant mortality in the country is severe acute malnutrition.
Lori Lake, communication and education specialist at UCT’s Children’s Institute, said that we as individuals can do a lot to protect and promote our own and children’s health and nutrition. , but it cannot be done in isolation.
“Safeguarding children’s health and nutrition requires intervention at every stage of life and collective action by various government departments, civil society and the private sector,” she said.
The 15th issue of the South African Child Gauge was developed in partnership with the DSI-NRF Center of Excellence in Food Security at the University of the Western Cape (UWC), the DSI-NRF Center of Excellence in Human Development at the ‘University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), Standard Bank Tutuwa Community Foundation, DG Murray Trust and Unicef South Africa.