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?
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”