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Public Health Nutr. 2003 Aug;6(5):431-7.

Evaluation of a nutrition supplementation programme in the Northern Cape Province of South Africa.

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  • 1Child Health Unit, School of Child and Adolescent Health, University of Cape Town, 46 Sawkins Road, Rondebosch 7700, Cape Town, South Africa.



This study aimed at assessing the effectiveness regarding implementation and impact of a take-home nutrition supplementation programme, the Protein Energy Malnutrition (PEM) Scheme, that targets malnourished pre-school children and pregnant and lactating women in the Northern Cape Province of South Africa.


In assessing implementation of the PEM Scheme, a cross-sectional descriptive study was undertaken over a 6-month period in the six regions of the Northern Cape Province. Interviews were conducted with programme managers and health personnel at clinics who were responsible for implementing the PEM Scheme. In assessing the impact of the PEM Scheme on growth, a retrospective review was done of the clinic records (including anthropometric data) of children enrolled in the PEM Scheme over a 1-year period.


About 76% of the budget allocated to the PEM Scheme had been utilised over the 1-year period. The budget for the following financial year was based solely on food supplements purchased in the previous year. Coverage of malnourished pre-school children and eligible pregnant and lactating women for enrolment was estimated to be 50% and 60%, respectively. Eighty-five per cent of health facilities in the province participated in the PEM Scheme. Some of the main problems identified included: lack of training, inappropriate targeting of certain groups, incorrect application especially of discharge criteria for pregnant and lactating women, inadequate assessment for nutrition-related disease, inadequate nutrition counselling and no standardised monitoring. Of the 319 children enrolled over a year, the mean age was 16.2 (standard deviation 16.2) months, 41% had been low-birth-weight and 18% had been diagnosed with tuberculosis. Ten per cent of the children with a weight-for-age Z-score of <-2 moved into the normal Z-score range after being on the PEM Scheme for a mean duration of 8 months. There was an overall improvement in the weight-for-age Z-scores of 25% of the sample, with a significant difference between the mean weight-for-age Z-scores at enrolment and follow-up This was mainly related to significant improvement in the mean weight-for-age Z-scores of children <2 years.


Numerous problems with the PEM Scheme have been identified which could have limited its impact. Recommendations are proposed for improving the effectiveness and impact of the PEM Scheme in the province.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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