First Lady Tshepo Motsepe calls for concrete action on child hunger and malnutrition
Ministers responsible for the food and nutrition security need to uphold the commitments of the Constitution, and strengthen the food safety nets for children including the National School Nutrition Programme.
South Africa’s First Lady Dr Tshepo Motsepe,made the call at the launch of the 15th annual Child Gauge report which, this year, focuses on child malnutrition with the theme: “The slow violence of malnutrition in children”.
The report was compiled by 63 experts in health and child care.
Addressing more than 1300 delegates from various organisations at the virtual launch, Motsepe also called for Early Child Development (ECD) subsidies, campaigns for exclusive breastfeeding, food fortification and supplementation, as well as social protection policies.
“We need these to be effectively implemented and adequately resourced,” she said.
Mosepe said the plight of children had always been close to her heart. She said while the Covid-19 pandemic had affected the country’s economic standing, there was also cocern at the number of South Africans without access to sufficient food who go hungry on a daily basis.
“The extent of child malnutrition in South Africa has often been documented and it is with distress that we learn of the deteriorating situation, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown restrictions.
“Our child stunting rates show that we are lagging behind in nurturing our children. Stunting reflects chronic undernutrition and a lack of adequate food to promote optimal growth and development,” she said
Motsepe said she recognised collaborative efforts to curb malnutrition but more needed to be done. She said malnutrition was linked to a third of all child in-hospital deaths.
“We cannot turn our eyes away from images that mirror the gravity of hunger in our society. It is a slow violence against our children, and we cannot thrive as a country when our children are shackled to a life of hunger and malnutrition,” she said.
Deputy Representative at UNICEF South Africa, Muriel Mafiko, said 27%of children were stunted which was higher than the international benchmark.
She said the country needed to accelerate plans to reduce child stunting and ensure that the right to basic food was upheld.
“Increase breastfeeding rate from 32% to 50%, the international standard in order to stand a chance to improve child nutrition.