Nutritional health of young children in South Africa over the first 16 years of democracy
AbstractObjectives. Malnutrition among young children is a major health problem in post-apartheid South Africa. Despite implementation of numerous health and nutrition programmes, these extensive efforts to alleviate the situation have not been adequately reviewed.
Methods. We provide an overview of various aspects of the current nutritional health status of young children. The reviewed data are from the time period 1994 - 2010, and were collected from literature databases and official reports, as well as our own experience with field research in various urban and rural parts of the country.
Results. Both smaller province-based studies as well as three large nationwide surveys conclude that many young South African children have inadequate nutritional status. Rates of stunting, micronutrient deficiencies and hunger and food insecurity are all unacceptably high. Coexisting HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis add to this burden. A gradual transition to a westernised diet characterised by energy-dense food has led to a worrying increase in overweight and obesity.
Conclusion. A major challenge for the South African health authorities is still the fight against childhood undernutrition and hunger, which in turn are rooted in poverty and social inequalities. The double burden of disease adds to the scale and complexity of this challenge.