Malnutrition remains a serious problem facing South African children‚ with Gauteng‚ Free State and KwaZulu-Natal having the highest number of young children who are stunted – while the North West and Western Cape have the highest percentage of children who are underweight.
This is contained in a report released by Statistics South Africa on the latest evidence on the realisation of government’s early childhood development (ECD) goals for children aged from birth to six years.
The report found that Gauteng (34.2%)‚ Free State (33.5%) and KwaZulu-Natal (28.5%) had the highest percentage of children who were stunted‚ compared to other provinces. North West (12.6%) and Western Cape (11.9%) had the highest percentage of children who were underweight.
“Government feeding programmes target mostly primary and secondary schools with limited service to only some ECD centres. 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‚” the report said.
StatsSA said nutrition interventions for pregnant women at risk needed to be put in place in order to prevent low birth weights.
Cabinet approved the ECD policy in 2015 to promote optimal child development from conception to nine years.
The essential components to promote optimal child development include nutritional support‚ maternal health‚ child health‚ social services‚ support for primary caregivers and stimulation for early learning.
The report found that there were 8.2-million children aged between 0 and 6 years‚ comprising 15% of the country’s total population. It found that 40% of these children lived with both parents‚ 46% with their mothers‚ 12% with neither parent and only 2% with their fathers.
The report said attendance of any early childhood development programme for young children was necessary as part of school readiness by the time they had to enrol in Grade R.
“Unfortunately … almost half of three-year-old children did not participate in ECD learning programmes (49%)‚ close to 29% of children aged 4 did not attend in ECD learning‚ and among children aged 5 or 6 close to 13% each did not go to any facility or participated in ECD-related learning.”
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