Worcester research highlights pressing have to help ladies throughout and after being pregnant
Mothers can still breastfeed during COVID19.
Increased exclusive breastfeeding rates in the study indicated that women would follow health guidelines on this occasion.
A study of the nutritional status of children under five in communities around Worcester, Western Cape, has confirmed children’s susceptibility to stunts. However, an expert on child nutrition said there are positives that could help improve stunt control efforts.
According to the World Health Organization, stunting is “the impairment of growth and development that children experience from poor diet, repeated infections, and inadequate psychosocial stimulation”.
One of those positive results was that the study found that 59% of mothers exclusively breastfed their infants for the first six months. Exclusive breastfeeding is when the infant is given only breast milk and no food or water is given. Exclusive breastfeeding has been found to give infants a head start in life for the first six months, protecting them from disease and malnutrition. National guidelines recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months, but the national rate for exclusive breastfeeding is only 32%.
“The fact that they found so many more breastfeeding mothers than in the national survey suggests two things: it can be seen as positive for the health system, or women are so poor they can’t afford anything else,” said Dr. Chantelle Witten, specialist in child nutrition at the University of the Free State.
Unemployment and child feeding
With the majority of women who participated in the 2018 study being unemployed at 71%, Witten believes that this may have influenced the high breastfeeding rate.
“It shows that when women have the opportunity to do the right thing when they are at home with their babies, they are exclusively breastfeeding. On the one hand it’s positive that women are doing it, on the other hand it shows us how desperate the situation is, ”she said.
However, researcher Professor Lisanne du Plessis, who specializes in maternal and child nutrition in the public health sector at Stellenbosch University, does not believe that the unemployment status of the majority of women in the study contributed to the “surprisingly” high breastfeeding rate.
“In terms of unemployment and improved breastfeeding rates, we haven’t seen this be anything special in South Africa. Even in unemployed communities, breastfeeding rates weren’t necessarily better, so it could be … but I’m not convinced, ”said du Plessis.
Another positive result was that 80% of the children in the study were recipients of the child benefit allowance (CSG) and that only 32% of the children had insufficient dietary diversity.
According to the study, nutritional diversity is a tool that can be used to measure the nutritional adequacy of populations.
And since Worcester is an agricultural community, du Plessis believes that this could have contributed to the higher percentage compared to the national food diversity rate of 23%.
“We know Worcester is an agricultural area so there may be more food around. We also know that organizations like Food Forward in Worcester started working on food redistribution and food that is nearing its expiration date. Some of these issues may have contributed to the better results we saw, ”she said.
Despite these improved levels of food intake, Witten said more should be done to measure what has contributed to the improvements in Worcester, to make decisions that can be made at the national level when it comes to fighting stunts in the country .
The cost of healthy eating
Making healthy food affordable for pregnant women and young children who are primarily dependent on child support was also highlighted as a measure in support of efforts to end stunts, malnutrition, malnutrition and overeating.
This includes increasing the child benefit allowance on top of the basic food basket, which, according to the National Agricultural Marketing Council, costs up to R4000 per month.
The researchers also supported calls for a Pregnancy Support Grant, which would provide financial assistance, especially to pregnant and unemployed women, so that they can buy and eat a nutritious diet while pregnant. Pregnancy has been identified as the first phase in which measures to curb problems related to child nutrition should begin.
Among women without proper nutrition during pregnancy, 19% of Worcester children had a low birth weight of less than 2.5 kg. It was found that these children were twice as likely to experience stunts as compared to children of normal birth weight.
“If we want to push for solutions, I would suggest that we push for solutions that benefit all children in South Africa. We need to subsidize the food basket for children. I don’t understand why children who receive the SASSA scholarship do not have access to a subsidized grocery basket, ”said Witten.
Stunting in children
About 26% of children under five in Worcester were stunted, while 10% in the same age group were severely stunted.
The national stunt rate is currently just over 27%, which has been highlighted as worrying.
While 11% of the children in the study were overweight and 5% of them were obese. The combined national prevalence of overweight and obese children is 13.5%.
Celeste Williams, a thriving franchisee, stressed the need for support programs for pregnant women and mothers.
She has also urged local businesses in Worcester to make food affordable for communities.
“Pregnancy is a stressful time for women and we need community members to support pregnant women. We also need women with financial support during pregnancy and as communities we can have grocery gardens and share information about healthy eating, ”Williams said.
While Nolubabalo Siyolo highlighted the need for early childhood development centers that provide affordable rates for teenage mothers who need to go to school while their children are safe and receiving healthy food.
Making public breastfeeding the norm for mothers, especially in churches, has also been a problem for Siyolo.
“Breastfeeding mothers need to feel comfortable to feed their children everywhere, including church. Churches need to promote public breastfeeding without shaming women, ”she said.
Similar studies are being carried out in other parts of the country. According to the Executive Director of the Grow Great Campaign, Dr. Kopano Matlwa Mabaso, these studies will provide useful, high quality data on the nutritional status of South African children that will stimulate stakeholder action. – health news