Children need the right foods at the right time to grow and develop to their full potential. However, meeting children’s nutritional needs in early life can be challenging for many parents, particularly in poor and under-resourced communities. The reality is that many infants and young children are not receiving the nutrition they need to survive and thrive. Impande has seen evidence of this in our work with young children at ECD centres in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. We are concerned at the prevalence of stunting and wasting.
Nutritional Support to Unfunded ECD centres
Many teachers at unfunded ECD centres bring their own food from home so that children in their care without food do not go hungry. However this burden puts strain on their own limited supplies. Our long-term goal is government support to make sure that every ECD centre is subsidised, allowing them to make sure no child suffers the devastation of hunger. In the meantime, we are acutely aware that no child can fully develop and thrive on an empty stomach.
When talking to teachers they share that many children arrive to the ECD centre hungry. When there is no porridge, parents cannot afford to send a lunch bag so many children arrive empty handed or with a small snack like chips. The teachers share that being able to provide breakfast at the ECD centre makes a huge difference since it means that the children at least get one meal that day.
Through our long-standing partnership with Zero2Five and additional relief funding from Lego foundation we were able to ensure 10 750 children at unfunded ECD centres were served a nutritious breakfast daily last year. However, this year we are left with the challenge of how to feed over 5000 children at unfunded ECD centres across our network. It is only in WMM Mandela municipality that we know we will be able to provide nutritional support through the year with the help of Zero2Five. In the other municipalities where we work, we have scraped together funds to feed children for the next coming months but after that we are not sure how to continue to provide this vital support.
The Khula Nathi Project
In WMM Municipality we are excited to see the launch of the Khula Nathi project headed up by Zero2Five in partnership with the Department of Health. The project will be rolled out over a period of 3 years with the aims of strengthening referrals of children from ECD centres to health facilities. A key component will entail ensuring early detection of growth faltering and malnutrition. Here Impande’s digital application for data collection and management will be used to track children across the 316 ECD centres in the area. Impande very much shares Khula Nathi’s belief that in addition to ensuring children are fed nutritional food daily, ECD centres can play a key role in interventions that address childhood malnutrition.
Stunting: Stunting is a medical condition in which a child has impaired growth and development as a result of malnutrition. These children have a low height with respect to their age. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a child can be defined as stunted if their height-for-age is more than two standard deviations below the WHO Child Growth Standards median. A stunted child doesn’t have normal growth, s/he has a weak immune system and impaired brain function. Their organ development is also obstructed.
Wasting / Underweight: This occurs when a child has a low weight with respect to his/her height caused by malnutrition. Wasted children experience a loss of muscle mass and strength, a loss in appetite, low fat-stores and a weak immune system. This condition has a high morbidity and mortality rate.
Government ECD funding is essential to the health and wellbeing of children in marginalised communities and has deeper effects than we could possibly survey or imagine. To address the immediate need of children at unfunded ECD centres we are in dire need of additional nutritional partners. Thank you to Zero2Five for your ongoing support and commitment to improving nutrition in one of the poorest municipalities in our country.