MALNUTRITION IN SOUTH AFRICA
Malnutrition continues to be a scourge in South Africa. A staggering 15% of South African infants are born with a low birth weight due to malnutrition. In 2010, a study by the South African Department of Health found that 30.2% of pregnant women have AIDS. This severely affects breastfeeding because these women are afraid of transferring AIDS to their babies.
THE CAUSES OF MALNUTRITION
The following factors are linked to malnutrition:
- Stress – physical and psychological trauma brought on by personal, political, economic and social unrest
- Neglect by a caregiver
- HIV and its impact on breastfeeding – vital nutrients are contained in breast milk such as vitamins and minerals like vitamin B6 and folic acid
- Culture and lifestyle lacking fat content and thus protein resulting in kwashiorkor
- Poverty as an underlying cause of malnutrition
THE CONSEQUENCES OF MALNUTRITION
- Low birth weight – a prominent cause of children’s death in South Africa.
- Anemia – caused by lack of iron, resulting in tiredness and weakness, damage to the heart, brain, and other vital organs.
- Rickets – caused by calcium deficiency, resulting in weakness and pain in bones and teeth, impaired growth, muscle cramps, and skeletal deformities.
- Beriberi – caused by vitamin B1 deficiency, resulting in lethargy, inflammation of the nervous system and the possibility of heart failure.
- Pellagra – caused by niacin deficiency, resulting in dermatitis, diarrhea, dementia, and death
- Visual impairments and blindness caused by a deficiency in Vitamin A.
- Scurvy – caused by lack of Vitamin C, resulting in weakness, anemia, skin bleeding and gum disease, weak immune system, problems with iron absorption and cholesterol metabolism.
HOW TO TREAT MALNUTRITION
- Children six years old and under, pregnant women, and lactating women.
- Effective food fortification, e.g. increasing Vitamin A and C intake
- Promoting and improving breastfeeding methods
- Nutritional education, nutrition counseling services, support for specific ailments and indirect provision of healthcare services