The impact of poverty on child malnutrition was highlighted at a conference in Stellenbosch, where children’s rights to food and adequate nutrition took centre stage.
The Agriculture, Nutrition and Health Academy Week was hosted jointly by Stellenbosch University and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
Dr Chantell Witten of the University of the Western Cape addressed child malnutrition, and raised the issue of child stunting on which FairPlay has frequently focused. Stunting is caused by malnutrition, particularly in the first two years of life, and South Africa’s rate of child stunting is 27%, double the world average.
This meant that many South African children would never be able to develop fully, which compromised their education and future work opportunities, and caused premature morbidity and mortality.
“The biggest issue we are addressing is poverty … it’s holding people in poverty,” she said, arguing that children had to be at the centre of any change in food systems and that maternity protection and breast feeding were imperative.
“We have to disrupt the food system. The state has an immediate obligation to respect, promote and fulfil children’s right to basic nutrition. We need to bring the retailers and food producers into the conversation.”