With a GDP of over 384.3 billion dollars, and a GDP growth of over 2.5 percent, South Africa is the wealthiest nation in Africa and the 25th wealthiest in the world. By the year 2000, South Africa GDP was 40 percent of the total Sub-Saharan GDP.
Over 11 million South African citizens are currently food insecure, making over one-fourth of the population in imminent danger of malnutrition. 24% of the nations citizens are moderately to severely stunted, with another 9 percent of the population moderately to severely underweight.
The most harshly affected areas are the cities of Cape Town and Msunduzi. In Cape Town, 80 percent of the poor face food insecurity, while over 87 percent are affected in Msunduzi.
What factors are inflaming the situation? South Africa, despite producing “sufficient food for its’ population”, rising food costs have prevented poor “urban households” from obtaining proper “nutrition.”
Dr Jane Battersby-Lennard from the Food Bank of South Africa stated food is available, but impoverished residents of these urban centers can not afford the food. The nation’s “poor areas” have “seven times fewer supermarkets than rich areas”, making it extremely difficult for poorer residents to obtain food of adequate dietary value. She also noted that most urbanized residents reside within the “severe food insecurity category”, creating a situation where “meal sizes” are shrunk and families go “hungry for days.” In an attempt to save money, meals are downsized significantly.
The situation has been categorized by the term “Hidden Hunger.” South Africa is noted for it’s wealth and abundance of food, so the idea that such extreme levels of starvation can occur in this nation is astonishing to many. Even with the vast availability of food, residents lack of wealth result in them purchasing less than adequate food. This results in a “chronic lack of vitamins and minerals” which prevents impoverished residents from living a healthy, nutritional lifestyle.
Malnutrition has become an epidemic, both “under-nutrition” as well as “over-nutrition.” Over-nutrition has impacted large swats of improverished residents who purchase low-cost food deficient in essential vitamins, resulting in citizens becoming “overweight” and developing “obesity.”
South Africa’s rural population, which accounts for about 14 million people, are also destructively affected by the lack of proper nutrition. Moderate factors such as access to common household resources like “electricity and refrigerators” impinge on the storing of essential goods.
Dr. Mieke Faber and Dr. Friede Wenhold, working on a study proposed by SA Water Research Commission or WRC, found that rural populations are not exploiting natural resources such “water, soil and plants”, but instead, heavily relying on purchasing food and not producing crops. Water Research Commission executive manager Gerhard Backeberg emphasized the need for impoverished communities to take advantage of these resources to help combat food insecurity.
The wealth of a nation does not necessarily mean all of it’s residents receive the same treatment. Unequality in wealth and poor access to nutrition can blemish a nation’s reputation heralded for its economic successes. Addressing the health concern of impoverished residents is a necessity for South Africa to advance as a nation.
– Joseph Abay