Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

This Child Protection Week we celebrated 21 years of the child support grant, a phenomenal achievement for SA as numerous studies have shown it has been effective in improving children’s health and development outcomes.

The advent of the sixth democratic administration provides an opportunity to identify the next major gains for children, and undoubtedly better nutrition must be the national priority. More than a quarter (27%) of children under five are nutritionally stunted, far higher than many other developing countries with similar national incomes.

Prolonged undernutrition stunts the cognitive development of young children and undermines their ability to learn. As a result, stunted children are more likely to drop out of school and live in poverty and unemployment as adults, compared with their nonstunted counterparts. This undermines our collective aspirations to be a knowledge economy and results in a shameful loss of precious human capital.

Much of the vulnerability to stunting begins during pregnancy and in the first few years of life, when most of brain’s development takes place and when pregnant women and young children need access to nutritious food filled with the micronutrients necessary to build healthy brains. Yet SA does not provide any form of income support for poor women in pregnancy, a time of increased financial vulnerability for most SA women.

SA has identified expanding social protection into pregnancy as a policy aspiration in the National Development Plan, and this is commendable. However, it is now time that we move from aspiration to action and ensure that we protect all children’s right to enjoy a future free from the injustice of nutritional stunting by expanding the child support grant into pregnancy. 

Ofentse Mboweni
Grow Great Campaign