ECD & Nutrition
Continuous under-nutrition during Early Childhood can eventually lead to stunting, wasting & an increased risk of developing severe acute malnutrition in the children of South Africa. Being able to detect early indications of stunting, wasting & under-nutrition is of major importance to timeously intervene & allow for rehabilitation and catch-up growth. The opportunity exists where my project assesses and educates ECD sites, creches & Pre-schools with nutritional & growth monitoring knowledge & skills. Our Early Childhood development assessments tools & anthropomorphic assessments (Weight, height & MUAC) are used to gauge the developmental delays & nutritional status of children in pre-schools & creches. These methods of assessing children's growth have become the international standards on how children should grow and learn.We measure weight & assess children to provide schools with information to ensure adequate health & feeding for pre-school classes in underprivileged communities.
The aims of this project are to determine the impact of chronic under nutrition on early childhood development of pre-schoolers in the Eastern Cape and to assess the impact of current initiatives on nutrition- and childhood development indicators.
The objectives include:
• Assessment of baseline anthropometrical nutritional status;
• Assessment of baseline early childhood development indicators;
• Determination of associations between anthropometrical nutritional status and early childhood development indicators;
• Determination of associations between changes in the anthropometrical nutritional status, early childhood development indicators and interventions; and
• Determination of anthropometrical growth of children after 1 & 2 years.
HOW THE OBJECTIVES WERE ACHIEVED
I gained permission to begin this project from the Department of Health and clinic, crèche and school management; as well as gaining informed consent from parents of the children partaking.
All children in the classes undergo anthropometric screening and early childhood development assessment by fieldworkers under the supervision of experienced researchers and registered dieticians and social workers.
Developmental indicators will be measured using a previously tested tool developed by Dr. Lauren Stretch (2013) and used by Early Inspiration in the measurement of developmental indicators.
The following developmental indicators are measured: physical-motor development, social-emotional development, language and speech development, cognitive development, and visual perceptual skills.
This innovative project will contribute to a need and research gap identified with regard to the associations between anthropometrical indicators and early childhood development of preschool children in not only the Eastern Cape, but also the whole of South Africa. Investing in early childhood development has the potential to promote the social and economic development of South Africa. This project will also contribute to updating statistics of severe and moderate acute malnutrition in children in the Eastern Cape which could potentially influence future policies in the community health sector. The collaborative approach of this project has significance to the field of early childhood development in the Eastern Cape.
Our innovative project aims to determine the impact of chronic under nutrition on early childhood development of pre-schoolers in the Eastern Cape and to assess the impact of current initiatives on nutrition- and childhood development indicators. In developing countries, such as South Africa, children under the age of five are subjected to poverty, malnutrition, poor stimulation, poor health and safety which contribute to lowered cognitive and physical motor development. Undernutrition, micronutrient deficiencies, stress, exposure to toxins and lack of stimulation discourage normal brain development, structure and function. This in turn causes long term physical motor and cognitive under-development.
Biggest challenges include:
Our organisation is run through corporate funders who fund our interventions as part of their CSI/ outreach budget. This funding is limited and has only allowed us to assess 250 children in 2015. In order to replicate this project or grow our geographic reach I would need further funding as well as full time team/staff to manage the project.
Unless the lifestyles of South Africa’s neglected, under stimulated and malnourished children are rectified, they are at risk of irreversible brain damage and stunted physical growth. Under-age and under-prepared learners, who have proven to be the most at risk in terms of school failure and drop out, will certainly be minimized through the process of providing thorough early intervention and stimulation, as well as the laying of foundational concepts before children enter formal schooling.
I've learnt the importance of Early Childhood Development and how nutrition plays a vital role in growing our future nation.
Other lessons include:
Team work is powerful in community development.
Research can be used to measure and assess objectives for the project.
and lastly, there is power in leadership and vision when it comes to managing a project aimed at developmental communities.