Malnutrition is the outcome of many complex and interrelated factors such as lack of food security, lack of health services, sanitation, knowledge, education and care. It is considered to be a major problem worldwide as well as in South Africa, and the pre-school child is especially vulnerable to developing nutritional deficiencies and diseases. The aim of the study was to investigate the capacity of caregivers to provide nutrition-related care to pre-school-age children (3 to 5 years) in a resource-poor peri-urban community (Olievenhoutbosch) situated in the Gauteng province of South Africa. The study followed a cross-sectional research design, using a quantitative research approach with qualitative aspects to attempt to answer the research question. The questionnaire used for data collection covered aspects such as the resources for care that caregivers had, their nutrition knowledge and caring activities used as part of caring capacity. The questionnaire was administered to a sample of caregivers (50 mothers and two crèche caregivers) of pre-school-age children as key informants for this study. The study revealed that the caregivers’ caring capacities in this community highly depended on the availability and use of certain resources such as human resources (education, time and social support in terms of the availability of alternative caregivers), economic resources (having a job or any source of income) and organizational resources (e.g. child care facilities such as crèches). The mothers had limited resources such as human, economic and organizational resources that would help in childcare practices. Time was a serious constraint that could compromise the level of care provided by the two crèche caregivers. The caregivers had basic nutrition knowledge, but did not have detailed nutrition knowledge. They could mention healthy food types for the child’s optimal growth and development, but could not defend their choices by giving nutritionally sound reasons. Some misconceptions regarding the consumption of certain foods were prevalent. Caring activities in this study involved more than just the provision of food (i.e. food choices, food preparation and feeding practices), but involved other important aspects such as allowing the child time to sleep and play (and sometimes play with the child), ensuring the child’s hygiene (i.e. bathing the child, dressing the child, washing the child’s clothes, cleaning the place where the child stays, plays, eats and sleeps) and performing educational activities with the child. There is a serious need for proper nutrition education which will impart knowledge of appropriate food choices; components of a nutritious diet (healthy types of foods, drinks and snacks); functions of foods in the child’s body; hygienic food handling, preparation, and storage methods that would be translated into good care practices and contribute to the child’s optimal growth and development.
Dissertation (MConsSci)--University of Pretoria, 2009.