A total of 2024 children under age five were eligible for weight and height measurements to determine their nutritional status.
One in three boys and one in four girls under the age of five in South Africa are considered short for their age, or stunted.

These harrowing statistics are contained in the South Africa Demographic and Health Survey 2016 (SADHS2016).

The national household survey – released by Statistician-General Pali Lehlola – collected a wide range of health data, by way of face-to-face interviews, from over 11 000 households around the country over a period of one year.

A total of 2024 children under age five were eligible for weight and height measurements to determine their nutritional status.

The survey was undertaken as a partnership between the National Department of Health (NDoH), Stats SA and the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC).

According to the findings, “Stunting is higher among male children (30 percent) than among female children (25 percent).”

According to the survey, stunting remains a national concern, with 27 percent of children displaying signs of chronic malnourishment.

“Prevalence of stunting generally increases with age from eight months to 23 months before declining by the end of the third year of life (35 months). Children aged 18-23 months have the highest proportion of severe stunting (20 percent). This age group also has the highest proportion of underweight children (10 percent)”, the survey showed.

Also of concern, was that overall, three percent of the children surveyed were considered “wasted” – a condition reflecting acute or recent nutritional deficits.

This in contrast, to 13 percent of children who were found to be overweight – a sign of over-nutrition.

“The prevalence of overweight children is more than twice the global average of 6.1 percent”, the survey stated.

The proportion of children who were found to be underweight ranged by province, from a low of three percent in Eastern Cape to a high of 13 percent in North West.

While the prevalence of stunting raises concern, the survey showed an overall decline in the under-5 mortality. The survey also showed that the neonatal mortality rate has also dropped to 21 deaths per 1000 live births.