SA kids remain 'chronically malnourished'

04 April 2017 - 09:03 By Wendy Knowler
File photo.
File photo.
Image: Gallo Images/iStockphoto

At least a fifth of South Africa's children are chronically malnourished, even though almost two-thirds of minors receive a child-support grant.

And there had been only a negligible drop in the prevalence of children with stunted growth since 1993, said Stephen Devereux, of the SA-UK Research Chair in Social Protection for Food Security.

The latest survey, in 2012, put child stunting at 21.5%, he said.

A working paper published by the Centre of Excellence in Food Security released yesterday said food insecurity had dropped substantially since the child support grant was introduced.

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But the R380 grant was not keeping pace with food prices, which were rising at the rate of about 10% a year, and in most cases, child-support grants were not exclusively spent on the child, but "diluted" among the many needs of many people.

Malnutrition was caused by other factors besides food, Devereaux said. "Food security and nutrition security are not the same thing. A child can become wasted or stunted despite eating enough nutritious food, if she suffers from diarrhoea or worms due to living in an unsanitary environment or drinking dirty water."

Poor feeding practices can damage children's nutrition status almost from birth.