More than one in four South African children under the age of five are stunted.
That is what South Africa’s First Lady, Dr. Tshepo Motsepe, said on Wednesday evening in Sandton, Johannesburg.
“This is really a national challenge… If our children are stunted, the future of our nation will also be stunted. Imagine a stunted nation,” she said.
Motsepe was the keynote speaker at the launch of the Grow Great campaign, which aims to eradicate stunting by 2030.
Stunting is a condition which arises when children suffer from malnutrition, affecting the development of their brains and bodies. It is often defined by a child being too short for their age.
Motsepe said some children are stunted because of “nothing else but [the] social stature of their parents”.
“Stunting is not an inevitable phenomenon that is divinely predestined for children of a certain social-economic group.”
Motsepe said a “war” must be fought on ignorance around nutritional needs of foetuses.
“South Africans also need to know that teenage motherhood and short birth intervals can also lead to the stunting in the growth of children and make it even more difficult for them to reach their full potential mentally and physically.”
Motsepe said teenagers should be warned against the “indulgence” of sex.
“We cannot just discourage them. We have to have diversions. We have to make sure that our children have other ways in which they can engage themselves, either in sports, in arts, in culture, so that their lives have other ways so that they don’t resort to sexual activity as a pastime,” Motsepe said.
“Without it, they will not realise the physical and emotional consequences of this pastime of sexual activities.”
Motsepe said another solution was supporting mothers and fighting the stigma around breastfeeding in public.
“We must break down the barriers in the community about the beliefs and the limited education that is in our community and the perceived perception of glamorising infant formula,” Motsepe said.
“Mothers should be able to breastfeed their children anywhere. Why is it normal for us adults to eat and enjoy ourselves in public and babies cannot do the same?”