Are your domestic’s children starving?

I write for a nursing journal and was doing an article on malnutrition. I was reminded how big the problem is in this country, it is easy to live I lives removed from poverty and not to ‘see’. But logically if we go to the shop and food prices have gone up and up then how much more must this affect the poorest households.

I have included a few stats from the GAIN ( Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition) working paper on Malnutrition in South Africa at the end for those interested but I don’t want you to get lost in the stats.

Most children meet their macronutrient and protein levels, which means they eat enough and often weigh enough that they don’t always look malnourished. So looking at them we can fool ourselves into thinking they are fine. But the problem is on a micronutrient level. As many as 10 000 children will die in our country each year from complication of Vit A deficiency. Other micronutrients such as Vit C, Zinc, Iron, niaccin, folate and calcium are also often lacking. This leads to grow stunning and affects their physical and mental development.

Why do I ask if your domestic’s children are starving?
Becasuse as I was writting this article I could not help constantly thinking if I could feed my family as well as I would want to on what we pay. I pay well above the minimum wage and this is not a wage dispute but rather an eye opener. Even if you pay above the recommended minimum wage lower income households spend on average 70% of their income on food and this is just for the bare essential.

I am not discussing employment issues at all, we all have to do what we think is right and fair when it comes to wages. I think however it should not stop there.

Poor food choices are made by the majority of South Africans rich and poor. Watch trolleys in the shops and you will see whether it is a few coins paid for a white bread, pap and coke or a trolley over flowing with processed foods, fizzy drinks, chips and fatty snacks the same poor choices are being made.

Again I don’t think that there is much we can do to influence this, sure we can teach our domestic workers about the benefit of 5 a day fresh fruit and vegetable but in reality culture, finance and time may make this impossible.

So I decided I could not change millions but I can change 1 family. I challenge you to do the same, you will find the things that work for you. This is what I could do


1) Vitamins and Minerals are what is lacking, consider sponsoring your domestics children a monthly supplement.For babies and smaller children something like EmVit sprinkle is ideal as you can just add it to the pap or breakfast porridge and it is flavourless. Older kids can have the chewable multivitamins. The difference this can make to a child’s life long term is enormous. Imagine if each one of us did this and asked our friends to do the same and they asked their friends etc etc, we can touch a lot of lives

2) I don’t have time to make a vegetable garden alone so I have asked my Nanny/house keeper if she will help me. If we do it together then she can take half the food for her family. Most of us have a small piece of garden, even if you don’t have time to grow anything, maybe get your Domestic/House Keeper/Gardener to help and share the produce. You might even teach them the skill of growing food, or don’t be surprised if you are the one who learns

3) Simple education on food choices and about the 5 a day

4) I give my extra eggs from the chickens and anything else that I have over bought that month. I am careful but if we do have surplace I would rather her family benefits from it.
5) Dish up and extra plate of food at night from what we eat so I know she has had a good meal everyday, if there is less food in her house then at least she has eaten well and the kids can have more.

Can you think of anything else?

Like the starfish story, if we can make a difference to 1 child then we have done a lot

GAIN:” Despite various national nutrition and primary health care programs initiated in South Africa over the last decade, recent findings from scientific research have indicated that child malnutrition rates, as well as child health, have not improved. At the national level, stunting and underweight remain the most common nutritional disorders affecting one out of five children and almost one out of 10 children respectively.

The consequences of these levels of under-nutrition are very serious not just for the children but also for the economic development of the country. Using the latest data from epidemiological studies within a well established model we have calculated that the present levels of stunting and vitamin A deficiency result in more than 10,000 extra child deaths annually in South Africa. Poor breastfeeding habits are contributing to a further 7,312 child deaths. A number of longitudinal studies have also established that stunting and iron deficiency in infancy results in losses in earning capacity in later life, mostly through reduced physical stamina”

6 thoughts on “Are your domestic’s children starving?

  1. I agree with you. I think many are malnourished because they don’t eat the correct types of foods. They either eat what they can afford like pap, mielies and coke while others eat Fast Food for the convenience of it – both malnourished.

  2. I think we are heading towards a nutrition crisis. When doing my weekly shopping I usually pay with credit card, because my banking costs on that is less than drawing cash. They always ask me if I want to put it on budget, and I’ve found it ridiculous that they even ask, because you’re going to end up in big trouble putting food and basic necessities on a budget account. Then I started looking at what’s going on around me and realised most people are putting it on budget. This means that middle class can’t afford food anymore so how are people on minimum wage or below that suppose to survive.

  3. Well-written, Sally. Last year family circumstances forced me to a village in the North West, and that’s when it really registered that nutrition is a big issue among South Africans. I guess then, it was so close that I could not, not see, as it was affecting my own family. I started a veg garden because my mother’s diabetes was causing complications and I needed to change her diet, but I couldn’t afford the variety of foods required. You can read about it at http://foodgardeningsa.blogspot.com/.
    Anyhoo, early on I realised that the garden required a huge amount of labour and I couldn’t do it all. So I hired a part-time gardener to help with the heavy lifting. But, I was pleasantly suprised when my domestic voluntarily got involved. Many a day, you’ll find her in the garden, weeding, helping to transplant things etc. And because of that, we had such a big harvest this past summer (our first crop) that she and the part-time gardener were also able to take a bundle of vegetables home at least twice a week. Their help means I can spend less time in the garden, and actually be able to focus on my paying work, but our families all get to eat well.
    @ Rene- you are right that we are facing a crisis. Every time I go shopping, I am stunned by how much food costs, and I can’t help but wonder how “poorer” families cope.

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