KZN’s children among worst hit by hunger, disease

2013-10-29 00:00

CHILDREN in KwaZulu-Natal are among the worst affected in the country by malnutrition, pneumonia and diarrhoea.

This information is contained in the District Health Barometer report released by the Health Systems Trust yesterday.

It investigated primary healthcare in 52 district municipalities across the nine provinces.

Most KwaZulu-Natal districts, including well-resourced ones such as the eThekwini Metropolitan and uMgungundlovu District, fared badly in the various childcare incident reports.

A key contributor in the child mortality rate is malnutrition. The report found that five of the 10 districts across South Africa with the worst rate of malnutrition were in KwaZulu-Natal.

uMgungundlovu and the Umkhanyakude districts are worst affected with the highest numbers of children suffering from malnutrition, the report said.

uMgungundlovu shows up as the second worst district in the country, recording the most cases of malnutrition in KZN, an average of 13 cases per 1 000 children.

However, the district managed to save most of the children diagnosed. Of the actual number of children who died from malnutrition, uMgungundlovu was below the national average. uMzinyathi was the worst in the country as it recorded the most fatalities.

Mervyn Abrahams of the Pietermaritzburg Agency for Community Social Action (Pacsa) said the research was spot on.

He said many families are struggling to support themselves, leading to cases of malnutrition among children.

“Our research shows that food prices have increased … and that has forced families to do one of two things, either to eat less or buy cheap food. If they buy cheap food, this leads to a lack of nutritional value — the child might look full, but the food has no nutritional value.”

Julie Todd, the director of Pietermaritzburg Child Welfare, said they get about a 100 queries about nutrition per month, but due to a shortage of funds, they were struggling to assist.

The report also found that eight out of the 10 districts with the most pneumonia incidents were also in KZN. This is the second highest cause of death for children under the age of five. However, the illness showed signs of decline.

Ugu, uMgungundlovu, eThekwini, Sisonke and iLembe are the worst affected districts in the country. However, they managed to curb the death rate, with eThekwini and Ugu recording below the national average in deaths.

The report says KZN and the Western Cape have some of the districts with the highest numbers of cases of diarrhoea with dehydration in the country.

Diarrhoea is among the top causes of child mortality.

Six of the worst affected districts noted in the national report are in KZN. These include iLembe, eThekwini, Ugu, uThungulu, uMgungundlovu and Umkhanyakude. iLembe is the worst affected.

Health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo directed all queries about the report to the department. However, by the time of going to print, the department had not responded to The Witness’ questions.

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