The Sunday Times reported on May 8 that 199 children under five had died of malnutrition in hospitals in January and February this year.
According to the report, families hit hard by the Covid-19 lockdown and poverty are battling to put food on the table, with KwaZulu-Natal bearing the brunt.
Experts said the situation was likely to get worse as more people sink into poverty with little sign of relief or economic upturn. With interest rates set to rise again and the war in Ukraine — a major grain exporter — likely to continue for some time, experts predict steeper prices and more hardship.
According to the parliamentary response, the following numbers were reported:
- 2019/2020: moderate acute malnutrition (Mam) — 166; severe acute malnutrition (Sam) — 868; Total — 1,034;
- 2020/2021: Mam — 207; Sam — 568; Total — 775; and
- 2021/2022: Mam — 238; Sam — 771; Total — 1009
The worst affected provinces were KwaZulu-Natal followed by the Eastern Cape and Gauteng.
In a response to TimesLIVE, the health department reported there were 907 severe malnutrition cases in children under five in 2017 and 787 in 2018.