Overall and supporting messages
Overall message -detail 6 months
6-24 months
Communication summary
Further reading
20 Questions and Answers

Media information for National Nutrition Week 2011

Feeding Smart from the Start.
Overall and supporting messages.

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Adequate nutritional intake during infancy and early childhood is important for the normal growth and development of young children as well as enabling them to reach their full potential.  

The window of opportunity for improving nutrition is small; lasting only from pre-pregnancy through the first two years of the infant’s life.  Studies have shown that the first two years of life is the peak age for growth faltering, developing of deficiencies of certain micronutrients, and for contracting common childhood illnesses such as diarrhoea.  (WHO, 2003). 

The immediate consequences of poor nutrition during these formative years include significant morbidity; mortality; and delayed mental and motor development.  In the long-term, early nutritional deficits are linked to impairments in intellectual performance, work capacity, reproductive outcomes and overall health during adolescence and adulthood.  (WHO 2003).

Therefore, interventions should aim to focus on this window period (World Bank, 2006).  Weight gain in the first two years of life is an important predictor of schooling outcomes.  Better schooling generally predicts better long term health and increased lifetime earnings (Martorell, 2010)

There is no national data on the nutritional status of children 0 – 12 months.  The 2005 National Food Consumption Survey showed, amongst children 1 – 3 years, that more than one child out of five (23,4%) are stunted and one child out of 10 (11%) are underweight.  36 Countries worldwide account for 90% of all stunted children.  South Africa is one of these countries (Lancet, 2008)

Deficiencies in key micronutrients, i.e. vitamins and minerals, are also  prevalent in children 1 – 3 years of age  with more than half of them (64,8%) affected by a vitamin A and zinc deficiency (51,3%).  Additionally, one child out of five is iron deficient (NFCS, 2005).

The 1999 National Food Consumption survey (NFCS) showed that most children aged 1 – 9 years consume a diet low in energy, poor protein quality and meagre micronutrient density.  One out of two children was found to have an intake of less than half the recommended level for vitamins A, B6, C, riboflavin, niacin, calcium, iron, and zinc.  Children from poor households, especially in rural areas, were found to have the lowest energy and nutrient intakes.