PRETORIA, While government feeding programmes are in place, intervention is needed to prevent malnutrition in young children in South Africa, a report released by Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) says.

The report on Early Childhood Development (ECD) in South Africa, released here Tuesday, says that while the country has registered positive achievements in health and education, malnutrition is a challenge which needs to be addressed.

Malnutrition at a very young age needs immediate attention. North West, Free State and KwaZulu-Natal had most young children, who were underweight and stunted, the report notes.

The report, conducted in 2016, also found that government feeding programmes targeted mostly primary and secondary schools, with only limited service to some ECD centres.

The main purpose of the report is to provide data on the well-being of children and to describe the life situations of children aged below six years in 2016.

More targeted feeding scheme interventions need to be done either through the primary health care system or through social services to reach all children at risk of malnutrition. Nutrition interventions for pregnant women at risk need to be put in place in order to prevent low birth weight, the report says.

Stunting was high in Gauteng and Free State provinces at 34.2 per cent and 33.5 pe cent respectively. It was found to be lowest in the provinces of Northern Cape, Mpumalanga and Limpopo at 21.4, 21.5 and 21.9 per cent respectively.

According to the report, the incidence of severe acute malnutrition among children aged under five years was 3.6 per cent in 2016 and was highest in Free State and North West provinces at six per cent each and lowest in Gauteng at two per cent.

Severe acute malnutrition among young children is a potentially fatal condition. North West and Free State, which reported the highest incidence, were also the provinces with the highest fatality rate (11.6 per cent and 8.8 per cent respectively) resulting from acute malnutrition among children aged under five years," the report notes.


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