Cape Town — One of every four children under five years old in southern Africa suffers from stunted growth in that they are too short for their age, often as a result of inadequate nutrition.
This was revealed at the southern African launch of the 2017 Global Nutrition Report in Johannesburg this week.
"The indicators for nutrition are... alarming," said a press release from the Graça Machel Trust and the World Food Programme.
"Twenty-eight percent of children under the age of five in Southern Africa suffer from stunting, six percent from wasting and one percent from severe wasting. Additionally, 12 percent of children under 5 are underweight.
"At the same time, there is widespread micronutrient deficiency, and obesity is on the increase."
Civil society activist Graça Machel said countries grouped in the Southern African Development Community had made significant progress in reducing levels of malnutrition.
Despite this, "malnutrition remains stubbornly high, with two-thirds of countries in the region showing levels of stunting above 30 percent".
She added: "These stark findings give a very clear and unambiguous message that governments need to work together with the private sector, civil society and communities in much smarter and collaborative ways to eradicate the scourge of malnutrition."
Both mothers and children needed better nutrition, she said, since "the lack of adequate nutrition, especially for pregnant women and children in the first 24 months of their lives, is often a key contributor to the high levels of child mortality, stunting and the associated loss of human capital".