The United Democratic Movement Women’s Organisation is urging Joe Phaahla, the Minister of Health, to give child nutrition top priority in light of the 116 children who have died in the Eastern Cape in less than a year from severe acute malnutrition.

The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) inquiry has found that 116 children in the province passed away from severe acute malnutrition (SAM) between April 2021 and March 2022. Over 900 children were admitted to the hospital out of the 1,087 who showed signs of SAM.

Between 2018–19 and 2022–24, the rate of severe acute malnutrition in children under five years old increased from 1.9 to 2.4 per 1000, with the Eastern Cape seeing the most increases.

The main source of the issue is unemployment, which also contributes to poverty and other connected issues including food security compromising nutritional intake. A lack of care is likely to occur for children delivered to adolescent moms or in situations involving alcohol and drug misuse, including domestic violence, which has an impact on child feeding habits.

The UDM is requesting that the National Department of Health step in to assist all children in underprivileged and vulnerable communities with basic health and nutrition. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and school should make sure kids have breakfast daily. Children should be allowed to exercise their constitutionally guaranteed right to life.

Issued by:
Ms Thandi Nontenja
UDEMWO Secretary General