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Factors associated with malnutrition amongst children six months to five years of age in a semi-rural area of the Western Cape
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Malnutrition is a global concern and particularly in children. It impacts negatively on mortality, morbidity, educability and productivity, and it affects millions of children in South Africa. As part of our Millennium Development Goals set by the Department of Health and WHO, it is vital to combat malnutrition by eradicating extreme poverty and hunger. Malnutrition is regarded as a change in nutritional status that carries the penalty of illness, dysfunction or death. Child malnutrition poses one of the biggest challenges in South Africa according to the WHO and has been well documented over the past 20 years. A lack of knowledge from parents or caregivers on the nutritional needs of children and the levels of poverty contribute to childhood malnutrition; the extent of hunger has also been associated with low energy intake, low micronutrient intake and poor income levels. This affects growth patterns negatively. Thus, this study aims to examine the key factors that are causing malnutrition in children in a semi-rural community in the Western Cape. A combination of both qualitative and quantitative research approaches were used. Qualitative data were collected through group interviews and quantitative data were collected through a self-administered questionnaire from 105 parents and caregivers. Thematic content analysis was used for qualitative data analysis and SPSS was used to analyse the quantitative data. The results revealed that the associated factors to malnutrition amongst children six months to five years of age included obesity, underweight, stunting, severe acute malnutrition and moderate acute malnutrition. The results further indicated that the majority of households were single mothers with low income and a poor educational background. This study recommended that health education and health promotion should be done at all heath facilities with regular intervals as well as within the community. Authorities should provide a platform for all clinicians to go for regular updates and to participate in continuous development programmes to combat malnutrition. The findings of this study could contribute to the existing body of knowledge with regard to the factors that contribute to malnutrition. The results could improve health care practices in the communities of the Western Cape and the South African context at large.