South African Journal of Clinical Nutrition

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Socio-demographic factors and anthropometric status of 0-71-month-old children and their caregivers in rural districts of the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal provinces of South Africa

CM Smuts, M Faber, SE Schoeman, JA Laubscher, A Oelofse, AJS Benade, MA Dhansay


Objectives: To determine the nutritional status of 0- to 71-month-old children and their caregivers, as well as their socio-demographics, in two provinces in South Africa.
Design: Cross-sectional baseline survey.
Setting: OR Tambo and Alfred Nzo districts in the Eastern Cape (EC), and Umkhanyakude and Zululand (Nongoma and Pongola subdistricts) in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), South Africa.
Subjects: 0- to 71-month-old children and their caregivers (EC 1 794; KZN 1 988).
Methods: Questionnaire and anthropometric survey.
Results: The prevalence of childhood malnutrition doubled from the first to second year of life and reached high levels in the EC and Nongoma (KZN). Many caregivers were either overweight or obese (EC 55%; KZN 45%). Initiation of breast-feeding was universal. For infants younger than six months, more than 80% were breast-feeding, and 50% received bottle feeds in addition to breast milk in the EC. Breast-feeding was similar in the two provinces up to the age of 18 months, but differed for 18- to 24-month-old children (EC 50%; KZN 33%). Animal products and yellow/orange-fleshed vegetables were not consumed regularly by children aged two to five years. Immunisation coverage up until 10
weeks was approximately 90%; measles immunisation coverage at 18 months was 40 to 43%. Toilet facilities (31 to 96%), tap water (9 to 38%), electricity (8 to 51%), single mothers (29 to 68%) and unemployed husbands (19 to 55%) varied among provinces. Many households relied on grants for income. In Umkhanyakude, 37% of the caregivers had no formal education.
Conclusions: Childhood malnutrition and maternal overweight/obesity co-existed. A large proportion of the study population did not have access to basic services. Differences were observed within and between provinces. Nutrition programmes should be flexible, taking into consideration local conditions.

SAJCN Vol. 21 (3) 2008: pp. 117-124

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