Prevalence of stunting, wasting and underweight in Grade 1-learners: The NW-CHILD Study

  • G Kruger
  • AE Pienaar
  • D Coetzee
  • SH Kruger


Background: Child undernutrition remains a major public health concern in developing countries, with many negative consequences to child  development.
Objectives: To determine the prevalence of stunting, wasting and  underweight amongst Grade 1-learners in the North West Province (NWP) of South Africa (SA), taking into account gender, race and school type.
Method: Eight hundred and sixteen (419 boys, 397 girls) learners  participated in the study (567 black, 218 white, 31 other races).  Underweight, stunting and wasting (Weight-for-age, height-for-age, BMI-for-age) were determined using the z-scores of the 2007 WHO  reference sample (-2 SD).
Results: A higher prevalence of wasting and underweight were found amongst the boys (8.35%; 5.97%) compared with the girls (6.30%; 2.52%), although this was only significant for underweight (p = 0.02), whilst stunting percentages were very similar amongst girls (4.53%) and boys (4.06%). Underweight was the highest in the black group (5.47%; p < 0.01), compared with the white group (0.46%) and the prevalence of the conditions is associated with school types which represent low socio-economic circumstances (Quintile 1–3 schools). Only black learners showed stunting (p < 0.01) and more black learners were wasted (n = 39) compared with white (n = 15; p = 0.08) learners. Quintile 1–3 schools had a significantly higher prevalence of underweight (5.14% – 8.18%) and stunting (3.88% – 10.7%) (p < 0.01) compared with Quintile 4 and 5 schools.
Conclusion: The prevalence of stunting, wasting and underweight need improvement amongst school beginners, especially in Quintile 1–3 type schools but also amongst black learners living in the NWP of SA as it can have significant hampering effects on the future development and  well-being of children.

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2071-9736
print ISSN: 1025-9848