SA sees spike in child malnutrition over the last decade

Officials reported an increase stunted growth and underweight toddlers in a workshop on food security.

Malnutrition was the cause of 11 percent of child deaths in 2013. Picture: EPA/NADEEM KHAWER

JOHANNESBURG - The Health Department says development impairments in children have spiked in the past decade because of a lack of nutritional diversity.

Officials were addressing a joint parliamentary workshop on food security.

Parliamentarians heard from food security experts that there has been an increase in stunted growth and poor nutrition in children younger than five-years-old.

Studies presented to a parliamentary workshop show that children younger than five are most susceptible to development challenges as a result of malnutrition.

There has also been an increase in stunted growth and underweight toddlers in the past 10 years.

The Planning and Evaluation department's Thulani Masilela says malnutrition was the cause of 11 percent of child deaths in 2013.

"Over the 20 years of democracy we focused a lot on the quantity of food, because we inherited poor people, hungry people from the previous dispensation. So as government, we rushed all these programmes. Our focus was on providing people with food and we didn't focus so much, says the study, on the quality of the food, which is the nutrition component."

Masilela says while government is doing well in providing clinical interventions, lifestyle and behavioural changes need to be prioritised.