Calls to address widespread hunger in SA



Published May 31, 2024


Civil society organisation SA Harvest says that the newly elected government needs to address hunger that is affecting millions of South Africans.

This comes after research done by SA Harvest indicates that 27% of children under the age of 5 face malnutrition diseases due to chronic nutritional deprivation and 20 million South Africans face severe food security.

Other civil society groups said they agree that ensuring South Africans do not go hungry must be prioritised.

Alan Browde, CEO and founder of SA Harvest, said the statistics show that over 15 000 children are diagnosed with severe acute malnutrition annually, with approximately 1 000 succumbing directly to its effects.

“The elections present an opportunity for every South African to demand accountability and action on hunger.

It is devastating to witness the silent violence of hunger persisting amid our nation’s potential. Our government’s duty to ensure the right to food and nutrition is enshrined in our Constitution, yet millions remain food insecure.”

Evashnee Naidu, Black Sash’s regional manager in KwaZulu-Natal, said that they look forward to the incoming administration prioritising the needs of the most vulnerable by addressing rising poverty and hunger.

“Since the Covid pandemic, it has become increasingly obvious that millions of South Africans are dealing with hunger and in fact having to make a choice about what they eat and if they eat.”

Naidu said the incoming government needs to look at the issue of social grants.

“Black Sash urges the incoming government to grow the gains of our democracy by increasing social grants to keep up with inflation and making permanent the Social Relief of Distress Grant (SRD) and transitioning it to Basic Income Support for those aged 18 to 59 to give back dignity to our people.”

Dr Kelle Howson, a senior research consultant at the Institute for Economic Justice, said hunger is the most urgent issue facing the majority of the country’s population.

“It has worsened over recent years, as the cost of food has soared above the level of social assistance provided by the government. The food poverty line (the level of income needed to just cover a person’s minimum food intake needs, as calculated by Stats SA) has reached R760 a month.”

Howson said that the SRD grant is not even half of this, and the Child Support Grant (at R510) also falls well below this threshold.

“After the election it is critical that leaders prioritise meeting people’s basic food needs first, by increasing direct cash assistance to low-income households and caregivers – including by restoring the Child Support Grant to above the food poverty line, and urgently introducing a basic income grant that covers basic needs.”

Isobel Frye, director of the Social Policy Initiative, said it is critical to reflect on policy challenges.

“If you look at the recent General Household Survey 2023 that Stats SA released last week, the percentage of households that have inadequate or severely inadequate food access was 23%.

“If you turn the percentage to households whose main source of income is social grants, that figure is 23%. The correlation between hunger and poverty is clear, because social grants are a means to help the impoverished.”

Frye said the transfer of income by the state through social grants is not enough.

“When we talk about dependency on social grants we don’t only talk about the high levels of hunger through poverty. We have noticed stunting levels for boys under 5 years is at 30% and girls under 5 years at 25%, and this is something you can’t remedy after it happens.

“Our seventh administration needs to look at how they can ensure sufficient distribution of income into households that are in poverty and suffering with hunger.”

The Mercury