The Stunting Story has three elements of something knocked out of kilter, forces gathering to restore harmony and balance; and the counter parties blocking progress.
Our stories to have power must have at least three elements.
Firstly our story should begin with some facet of life that has been knocked out of kilter. Then secondly, two groups gather, one attempting to restore harmony and balance; and the other doing everything in its power to block and resist them.
Finally the story ends with balance being restored; or continuing turmoil.
The storyteller should have some understanding of how things ought to be; and insights into how matters actually are on the ground. And finally he or she must have a vision of the solution; and how to bring it about.
For it to be a good story there needs to be a nuggety problem that is ruining some facet of our life; and there needs to be a bit of spice. If the Three Little Pigs built their houses of straw, sticks and bricks simply lived happily ever after, that wouldn’t make for an imaginative yarn; charming perhaps but of little interest.
Nor if the Big Bad Wolf huffed and puffed and blew all the houses down; and gobbled up all three of the little pigs. There has to be a solution.
Perhaps most important the storyteller must be able to grasp the nettle; and strive to bring about change despite the antagonism of those benefiting from the world out of kilter.
No one doubts it; all is not well in the state of South Africa. We are seriously out of kilter; over a quarter of our children and half in many rural villages are permanently stunted, mentally and/or physically. The damage done is so bad that no matter how good their diet becomes in later life, balance cannot be restored to their lives; it’s permanent.
So our Stunting Story begins with a real nuggety problem; one that stretches back to the Apartheid days but is rapidly becoming worse. Many NGOs, academics and even the President’s wife have brought the tragedy clearly into focus; but there are none so blind as those who will not see. Harmony and balance are ever further from our grasp. The tipping point lies just around the corner; in fact we may already have passed it. The second and third generations of stunted children are now unable to do meaningful work; provide for themselves and their families.
South Africa’s story is in phase two; those who have insights into the problem and how it can be fixed, are locked in mortal combat with the Big Bad Wolves who are profiteering from keeping our children permanently stunted. And right now both the houses of straw and sticks have been blown right away; and even that home of stone is threatened by a tornado of pseudo-food from which most of the goodness has been extracted.
There is no sign of balance and harmony being restored; the problem continues to worsen. The government thinks that if it throws even more good money (grants) after bad that the problem will be solved; it will not. And there are many well-meaning NGOs who lack the scientific understanding of how stunting came about in the first place.
There are two important parts. Until the role players grasp that food which supplies only energy but little or no nutritional support, simply cannot restore balance to the Stunting Story, the solution will remain as distant as Alpha Centauri; and there is no sign of it happening. The tipping point looms ever closer.
The Stunting Story obviously goes back into the mist of time; when it affected a small percentage of children. It only grew into the monster it is today in the last roughly 150 years.
The name Dr Christiaan Eijkman is not one that will be familiar to most folk. This profoundly observant man discovered that beri-beri, a disease that killed millions of people, far worse than Covid 19, was caused by a diet high in polished white rice; and could be cured by consuming the discarded bran. His observations led to the discovery of the first vitamin, thiamine.
And still we feed white rice to our children. And any breastfeeding woman whose diet consists largely of food deficient in thiamine, will have a permanently stunted baby.
So important was Eijkman’s discovery of vitamin B1 that he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1929.
But it would seem the Department of Health, those who award large grants for school feeding schemes and even well-meaning NGOs which think that white rice should have a place in the Basic Food Basket are oblivious of the science.
Good food should give both energy and nutritional support.
Ironically white rice is also playing a large role in the diabetes epidemic that is sweeping across South Africa; the double burden of stunting and obesity amongst South African children.
Is white rice enriched with thiamine after polishing the same thing? You be the judge.
Knowledge is power; and better health for our kids will only come about by right choices. Many of them are difficult; like white rice should have no place in any feeding scheme. It killed millions in Asia and continues to stunt hundreds of thousands of South African children.
This stunting story has three elements that make up any good story; read further about severe food insecurity.
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