Stunted growth

Stunted growth

Help children reach their full potential

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More than a quarter of children under five in South Africa are stunted (shorter than you would expect). You can help prevent stunting by monitoring children’s growth and educating mothers about breastfeeding and nutrition.

Stunting affects many areas of a child’s development, including their intellectual development (which impacts on school performance).

Stunting is identified by measuring the child’s length/height. You need to measure every child’s lying length or standing height every 6 months.

Plot these measurements on the height chart in the Road to Health booklet.

  • Children growing normally have a height-for-age above the -2 line.
  • If the height falls below the -2 line, the child is said to be stunted.

Note that different charts are used for boys and girls.

Educate mothers about nutrition and support them.

Encourage mothers to:

  • breastfeed exclusively for the first 6 months
  • continue breastfeeding up to 2 years, and introduce adequate, good quality complementary feeds

In poor communities stunting is often caused by:

  • chronic undernutrition
  • chronic illnesses, such as TB, diarrhoea and intestinal worms
  • being born short for gestational age

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