Child malnutrition : perceptions and experiences of mothers of children admitted at St. Patrick's hospital in Bizana, Eastern Cape.
Malnutrition refers to the condition caused by an improper balance between what an individual eats and what he requires to maintain health. This can result from eating too little (sub-nutrition or starvation) but may also imply dietary excess or an incorrect balance of basic foods staff such as protein, fat, and carbohydrate. Child malnutrition is a serious problem and worldwide. Mothers play an important role in child care and this is preventing and dealing with child nutrition. This study aimed to explore the perceptions and experiences of mothers whose children with malnutrition were admitted to a public hospital in a rural district of Bizana in the Eastern Cape. Bizana is the very disadvantaged area with high rates of poverty and unemployment. The study addressed four questions: How do the mothers understand malnutrition? What are the mothers’ experiences of caring for their child who is malnourished? How do the mothers access and experience various government and other structures in addressing malnutrition? How do they think that medical, social and economic support structures should assist them? A qualitative research paradigm guided the study and the research design was exploratory and descriptive. Ten mothers of children admitted to children’s ward participated in this research. The participants were between 20 and 41 years of age and were “long stay” patients at the ward. Data was collected by in depth interviews using an in-depth-interview guide. The results demonstrate that the mothers came for poor socio-economic backgrounds. They were dependent the social security and had little family support. The lack of resources on the environment also impeded their ability to care for their children. Poor education and a lack of knowledge had resulted in them not feeding the children correctly. The mothers were distressed about the ill health of their children and worried and anxious about coping. The study makes recommendations for more support to be provided to mothers, especially in this rural area.