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THE SCOURGE OF MALNUTRITION

<img src="malnutrition.jpg" alt="Malnutrition" width="300" height="200">

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
  • Abuse
  • 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

Following an integrated nutrition plan should alleviate the persistent malnutrition. The plan should focus on:

  • 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

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