News Roundup

Intense interest in study on human trafficking

An HSRC report on human trafficking in South Africa, commissioned by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), created huge local and international interest in the light of the FIFA 2010 World Cup and fears that this type of crime would increase during this period.

The report, Tsireledzani: Understanding the dimensions of human trafficking in southern Africa, said victims were mostly women, girls and boys trafficked for purposes such as prostitution, pornography, domestic servitude, forced labour, begging, criminal activity (including drug trafficking), and trafficking for the removal of body parts (or muti). Young boys are trafficked to smuggle drugs and for other criminal activities.

The study identified a number of trafficking flows into South Africa, including intercontinental trafficking from outside of Africa; trafficking to South Africa from other African countries; and domestic trafficking.

It found that the largest movement of trafficked people was from rural areas to cities. The albino community was also identified as vulnerable to human traffickers for the harvesting of body parts, due to the belief of a ‘white' skin having potent powers.

Trafficking of South Africans out of South Africa is less of a problem, but eight cases were identified between January 2004 and January 2008 where destination countries included Ireland, Zimbabwe, Israel, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Macau. In all cases, the victims were women trafficked for either sexual exploitation, labour exploitation or forced marriage.

The full report is available on request from media@hsrc.ac.za 

Nutritional status and food security of Zambians

One of the first projects of the new HSRC Centre for the Study of the Social and Environmental Determinants of Nutrition, commissioned by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), involves working with the Zambian Food and Nutrition Commission in assessing the mean daily food intake of children and adults.

The research will include a questionnaire to assess the scarcity of indigenous foods. Semi-structured questions will be used to collect data on agricultural biodiversity, and the Household Food Insecurity Access Scale (HFIAS) will be used to assess food security. This assessment is based on the principle that the experience of food insecurity causes predictable reactions and responses that can be captured and quantified through a survey and summarised in a scale.

Available information on the nutritional status of the Zambian population in 2007 is disturbing: 45% of children under five  were stunted, 19% were underweight and 5% were wasted; 30% of schoolchildren had goitre; and sub-clinical vitamin A deficiency was 54% in pre-school children.

This comprehensive study will serve to prepare a nutrition policy for the country as a whole. A pilot study was conducted to test the actual questionnaires to see if they were clear and understood by all.

SUSTAINABLE CITIES Comparing China with South Africa

The question of how developing countries can provide sustainable infrastructure to accelerate services for their populations was the subject of seminar research teams from the HSRC and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS).

The seminar was coordinated by the department of science and technology (DST), and formed part of the Shanghai Expo with its overall theme of Better Cities: Better Life.

The preliminary work of the comparative study highlighted the need to showcase good practice models used within cities in both countries so as to bridge the gap between the maintenance of existing infrastructure and the development of new infrastructure that could ultimately accelerate service delivery, alleviate poverty and meet international goals, such as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The implementation of good practice models can be used as a tool to inform cities within developing countries on how to develop sustainable cities.

Discussions were informed by dominant trends in service delivery within the specific context of local government in developing countries. The question of whether China and South Africa fit within or outside of these trends was determined through providing the context of progress and challenges in both countries.

Early growth influences everything in later life

How much you earn as an adult may depend on how you grow in your early childhood. The Consortium of Health Oriented Research in Transitioning Societies (COHORTS), a collaboration between the five largest and longest running birth cohorts in low- and middle-income countries, included studies done in Pelotas in Brazil, Guatemala, Cebu in the Philippines, New Delhi in India and our local Birth to Twenty study. By pooling data from these five studies, new information was gathered about the role of early growth in predisposition to health and disease, and human capital development, including education and earnings.

COHORTS analyses have found that growth during the first two years, specifically height, predicts age at school entry, whether a child would get a fair grade, and their highest grade attained; but growth from two to four years has little relationship to schooling outcomes. Stunting (low height) is associated with a reduction in attained schooling of about one year. Weight gain between birth and two years is associated with about a half an additional year of schooling respectively.

Given an estimate of about a year of schooling lost, stunting in early childhood is estimated to decrease lifetime income by about 10% in low- and middle-income countries. The recommendations from the study are clear - we need to improve the nutrition of pregnant women and children between birth and two years to achieve clearly demonstrated benefits to adult education and income.

COHORTS

A paper from the group, outlining the long-term consequences of poor growth in the first two years of childhood as a determinant of adult well-being and human capital development, was published in the leading medical journal The Lancet's special issue on maternal and child under-nutrition.