It’s Easier Said Than Done.

A sanitised story – as told by “Uncle” Norman.

Lest we forget, there are a whole host of other diseases besides the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) that we should be concerned about. These diseases could either be communicable or non-communicable, genetic or acquired, and even acute or chronic diseases. Some diseases are more common (such as the common cold, also called viral rhinitis, which is one of the most common infectious diseases in humans) while others are rather rare (just how I like my steak). 

No seriously now. 

According to Rare Diseases South Africa, a rare disease is one that affects less than 1 in 2000 people affected, including that there are approximately 7000 different rare diseases described to date. Furthermore, it is understood that rare diseases are often:

  • Life threatening, life limiting or chronically debilitating;
  • Complex, often affecting multiple body systems and requiring specialised and coordinated care that comes at considerable cost to families and the health system;
  • Genetic (80% of rare diseases) and therefore not readily preventable; and
  • Incurable, many with no effective treatment and symptoms often worsen over time.

The one thing that we can all agree upon (another rare phenomenon), is that due to how easily transmittable and how rapidly SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) has spread around the world (certainly beating Phileas Fogg’s fictional record of globe-trotting “Around the World in Eighty Days”), that it is often hard to remember, consider or speak of the other diseases, ailments, prejudices, infections, discomforts, afflictions, pains, etc…that affect us daily. 

It is easier said than done, to convince yourself that the latest signs or symptoms that you may be experiencing, could be as a result of other diseases, without first wondering whether you exposed yourself to the infamous COVID-19. This is still the case, even when you know that you cleaned and sanitised everything, everywhere, every time. You may even start to wonder whether or not you could have exposed yourself to this dreaded disease while you were:

  • Sitting next to someone who may have or may have not coughed in the taxi, bus, plane, mosque, church, synagogue, club, shebeen, classroom, or at work;
  • Out for a Wimpy breakfast or getting on that stationary bike at the gym;
  • Opening a communal door or collecting your municipal bin from outside after the garbage was collected;
  • Hugging and kissing your kids, husband, wife, partner or dog (don’t judge); 
  • Doing your grocery shopping (don’t forget the toilet paper), buying bread or a 400g tin of Lucky Star pilchards in tomato sauce (for former Minister Tito Mboweni) at the local spaza shop or even while buying those non-essential items at your favourite boutique store;
  • Or whatever else you may have been tempted or compelled to do (due to peer-pressure), in your daily quest to stay sane and sanitised (or safe and sound).


Bless you.

“Eat or be eaten”

A Squeamish Story – As told by “Uncle” Norman.

“E e mo mpeng e bolokegile”, a Setswana proverb which loosely translates to: “What has been stomached is safe.”

But how safe is it, if your child has parasitic intestinal worms, such as pinworm, hookworm, large roundworm and whipworm?

Well, the obvious answer to that question is – It’s not safe at all.

This is because parasitic intestinal worms are known to feed on their host’s tissues (no, not the Twinsaver 2-Ply tissues in your child’s pockets), including blood, which unfortunately leads to a loss of iron and protein. The worms also reduce the ability of children’s bodies to properly absorb vitamins, such as vitamin A.

Now, in case you did not know, or have not “Googled” it as yet: Vitamin A is needed for a healthy immune system (the body’s ability to fight off diseases), it helps with vision (by allowing you to see in low light conditions), and keeps the skin healthy.

While you may feel squeamish at the mere mention or thought of worms, it is however important to teach children how they can do their bit to make a difference towards the health of our planet, by introducing them to the practice of worm harvesting/farming. This life skill could make them more conscious of the environment and may encourage them to recycle their food scraps. Albeit that worm harvesting/farming is a simple and effective way to reduce waste and enable families/schools to make their own inexpensive fertiliser, it is clear that children should not have to harvest worms in their own bodies. Ag siestog!

So, what must happen?

Well, all children (yes even yours), including adults should be dewormed once every six months.

Go on, ask your doctor… (then thank me later)

The Height of Success

A Success Story – As told by “Uncle” Norman.

“The height of your success is determined by the depth of your belief.” A quote attributed to the American author Hilary Hinton “Zig” Ziglar.

But what if your child’s height-for-age could be used as a determinant of their future success?

Well, in the case of STUNTED  children, child growth failure is often an indicator of risk of developmental delay. Stunted growth (also known as chronic malnutrition) refers to low height-for-age: when a child is short for his/her age but not necessarily thin.

Paediatric psychologist  Dr. Maureen Black (along with other researchers), affirms that nutritional deficiencies along with stress and other adversities during early life can create disparities that disrupt children’s growth and developmental trajectories, compromising their future health, educational attainment, psychosocial well-being, and economic productivity. That stunting before the age of two, has been associated with poor school performance, reduced economic income during adulthood, and both low birth weight and poor cognitive performance in the subsequent generation.


The long and short of it is that malnutrition, in all its forms: undernutrition (wasting, stunting, underweight), inadequate vitamins or minerals, overweight, obesity, and resulting diet-related non-communicable diseases, can and should be prevented.

What will be your success story in combating malnutrition?

Waste Management

Waste Not, Want Not – As told by “Uncle” Norman.

By the way, this is not about garbage collection, disposal, recycling, or the treatment thereof. In fact, it’s about the importance of meeting the increased nutrient requirements of children at risk for wasting.

So, what is wasting?

According to United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO): wasting or low weight for height, is a reduction or loss of body weight in relation to height.

In essence, wasting is the result of a child’s weight falling significantly below the weight expected of a child of the same length or height. This usually occurs when a child has not had food of adequate quality and quantity, and/or they have had frequent or prolonged illnesses.

Like most malnutrition-related ailments, wasting eats away at children’s optimal growth and development, including that wasted children, are at a greater risk of dying from common diseases such as diarrhea or pneumonia, than children who are adequately nourished.

In supporting those vulnerable children, who due to varying socio-economic conditions, do not have access to diets that cover their nutrient needs, immediate and urgent steps should be taken to provide them with the necessary supplementary foods.

Such cost-effective interventions would go a long way in curbing, alleviating, and/or eradicating child wasting and the undue harmful effects of malnutrition.

The poet Lucila Godoy Alcayaga, known by her pseudonym Gabriela Mistral, poignantly and pertinently wrote: “We are guilty of many errors and many faults, but our worst crime is abandoning the children, neglecting the foundation of life. Many of the things we need can wait. The child cannot. Right now is the time his bones are being formed, his blood is being made and his senses are being developed. To him, we cannot answer “Tomorrow”. His name is “Today”.” This was in1948, nogal.

In the end, it’s good to know that it’s never too late for any and all of us to take heed to Gabriela Mistral’s call to action: to do our best to give all children a headstart in life.

Waste Not, Want not!

“Magie vol, ogies toe.”

Making Hidden Hunger Be Seen – As told by “Uncle” Norman.

Magie vologies toe” – an old Afrikaans adage roughly translating to “tummy full, eyes shut”. A silent prayer recited by nursing mothers, as their babies fall asleep while feeding, owing to their tummies being sufficiently filled. But sometimes, filling a child’s tummy may not be enough for their optimal growth and development, including that it may be more than just their eyes shutting – but their futures too.

While on the topic of silent prayers and the filled tummies, it may be most opportune to delve into the arena of hidden hunger: one of the three known forms of malnutrition – undernutrition, hidden hunger and overweight.  It is worth noting that any one of the three recognised forms of malnutrition, which are universally referred to as the triple burden of malnutrition, can threaten the survival, growth, well-being and development of children, economies, and societies.

According to the World Health Organisation, hidden hunger is a lack of vitamins and minerals and occurs when the quality of food children eat does not meet their nutrient requirements. This means that the food these children eat is deficient in micronutrients, such as the vitamins and minerals that they need for their growth and development. What is known about the detrimental and often permanent effects of hidden hunger, is that even though its onset may not be initially visible or obvious, it can be foreseen, dealt with, and overcome.

More often than not, there is a great likelihood that the meals received by children from socioeconomically vulnerable environments – irrespective of frequency, servings or portions sizes – may fall short of the daily recommended essential micronutrients needed for optimal growth, health and development. These environments where manifestations of hidden hunger can be foreseen, include but are not limited to the scores of diverse creches/day care/early childhood development centres (registered and/or unregistered), orphanages, child reared homes or other formal and informal settings, settlements or establishments.

It is within these environments and many others, that the relentless manifestations of hidden hunger can be dealt with and with a bit of love, care and respect can over time be overcome.