On episode 34 of Sisters Without Shame, a Joburg mother wonders if Mzansi is also feeling the pinch as she struggles to put food on the table due to rising food prices. She does not want her children to become malnourished. Andra Nel, KFC’s CSI manager, joins this week’s episode to unpack child malnutrition in Mzansi.
According to Nel, malnutrition presents itself in different ways and its effects are equally different too. They can be physical, emotional and/or psychological.
“Acute malnutrition in children is twofold. Physically, children tend to struggle to meet developmental milestones and don’t meet their cognitive developmental milestones as well.”
Worldwide, 149.2 million children under five years of age are stunted and 45.4 million are wasted. This means that these children will likely not reach their full growth and developmental potential because of the irreversible physical and cognitive damage caused by persistent nutritional deprivations.
In South Africa, acute malnutrition remains a critical issue, with 27% of children stunted.
The first five years are crucial to your child’s physical and emotional development.
“There is also the emotional and psychological effect of the impact of malnutrition in kids. What we see in many organisations is that kids have reduced confidence, and their social skills are not so strong. They are struggling to make friends and relate to friend and showing leadership skills.”
What does malnutrition mean?
A picture that is widely known and comes to mind when talking about malnutrition in children, is a picture of an extremely thin child, with out-pronounced veins and a big tummy and head. But malnutrition is not only limited to this imagery.
“The next element is whether the children are getting multiple food staples with different nutrients. So, the concern here is whether they are getting energy from just eating the available food so that they can survive and learn, or are they getting energy coupled with various other nutrients in their system. This is where things like obesity in children come in.”
Some obese children are not obese because they are eating only one food. So, the tiny and unfed child is not the only malnourished one.
Why is access to food important?
Food, among many other things, is one of the best tools to combat many social and socio-economic challenges of the South African population.
“We have seen the cycle of poverty in multiple generations in South Africa and in Africa at large. We have seen that there is low income, low health, low education and low employment. I believe that we can end the cycle of poverty in our country if we give our kids access to quality education, if we create more employment opportunities among the old, and if we widen the spectrum of health and end the scourge of hunger,” says Nel.
Listen to the full interview on Sisters Without Shame
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