Hunger in South AfricaFood insecurity plagues approximately 14 million South Africans. Poverty and unemployment are the two leading contributors of hunger in South Africa, caused in part by the 2008 global economic crisis, which limited job creation opportunities and the purchasing power of South African households. The nation’s economy has also been stagnant, at a growth rate of 3.3 percent since 2011 and shows little signs of improvement. In 2006, 28.4 percent of the country’s population was living in extreme poverty. In 2015, the rate had only decreased to 25.2 percent.

Causes of Hunger

Other factors of poverty include the legacy of apartheid. Apartheid barred black individuals from a proper education system and thus skilled and higher paying occupations. South Africans also seem to display a sense of disinterest in entrepreneurship, given the lack of investment within the business space. High food and fuel prices, high-energy tariffs and increasing interest rates further exacerbate hunger within the nation, as households are struggling to meet basic needs.

Solutions for Hunger

In hopes to mitigate hunger in South Africa, several initiatives have been taken. For instance, Dr. Louise Van Rhyn founded Partners for Possibilities in 2010. Partners for Possibilities is a leadership development program focused on using grassroots and cross-sector collaboration efforts to help teachers and business leaders. The program pairs a business leader as a co-partner to a school principal. By forcing them to adapt and learn to lead a complex and unfamiliar environment, business leaders gradually develop leadership capabilities in the process. The principals learn to work with other individuals, as well as a partner to help them better manage under-resourced schools.

This approach not only improvement schools, spurs individuals to be involved in a business, but it also empowers individuals to succeed in their careers, strengthening South Africa’s education system, economy strengthening households from hunger and food insecurity.

Major international nonprofits such as the World Health Organization have invested in millions of dollars on food aid programs. Often times, even though there is food in markets, it is not necessarily available. Thus, these programs compensate for the lack of access. CARE is another major organization that has been trying to limit hunger in South Africa. Their programs focus on the nutrition specific needs of fetal and child development, as well as home-based practices, making them easy to follow for households of various conditions. One of their most notable developments is the creation of the integrated model: Collective Impact for Nutrition. This particular model was established after 10 years of programming where “key nutrition-sensitive interventions support a core nutrition-specific behavior-based approach, ensuring not only the promotion of improved nutrition practices but also helping to provide the necessary foundation for adopting them.”

Ultimately, hunger in South Africa is a complicated issue, as there are many factors at play. From high rates of unemployment, lack of accessibility to food markets and economic instability due to a lack of education, its difficult to resolve hunger. Recent statistics have shown there has been some improvement in the nation’s economy, though small. For these reasons, it is vital the organizations on the ground continue their efforts to limit hunger within South Africa.

– Iris Gao
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in South Africa Starvation
South Africa is one of the few countries able to provide its entire population with food. Each individual is able to receive approximately 600 grams of starch, 300 grams of fruit and vegetables, and 150 grams of meat or fish, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. However, hunger in South Africa continues to be a prevalent issue.


Causes of Hunger in South Africa


Thus, 11 million South Africans are unsure where their next meal will come from, a concept known as “food insecure.” A quarter of the South African population is currently struggling from malnourishment and hunger. The rural areas are where hunger hits the hardest, and the majority of South Africa’s poor are living in the rural parts of the country.

The reasoning for this is because natural resources are being wasted and are not being put to appropriate use. The cost of food is rising, and many South Africans are finding it increasingly difficult to afford or access nutrient dense foods at an affordable price.

Dr. Gerhard Backebery, Executive Manager of the South African Water Research Commission states, “Although not conclusive, it seems that most poor people are buying and not growing the food that they are eating. At the same time it is of major concern that available natural resources (such as water, soil and plants) are under-utilized.”


Devastating Health Outcomes of Hunger in South Africa


People are not merely dying of hunger in South Africa, but more specifically, they are dying from the side effects of lacking proper nutrients.  What people are able to eat is directly stemmed from what they are able to afford. Children, in particular, are suffering from undernourishment and malnourishment; a study in the Eastern Cape shows that some children are only ingesting meat one time per month, therefore they are severely lacking in minerals such as zinc and iron.

One in five children are reportedly stunted from lack of necessary nutrients and minerals.  Their nutrient deficiencies can have a lasting effect on their growth process, causing significant impairment to their physical health and mental development.

For example, iron deficiencies can cause poor attention spans and fatigue, making brain activity slower and learning more difficult.

Food fortification is one of the main methods to help reduce malnutrition and deprivation of nutrients.

Wheat flour, sugar, and maize flour now include essential vitamins and minerals. The addition of fortification in food has led to a reduction in birth defects. Children who are not breastfed, or who have been improperly breastfed, present elevated levels of malnourishment, growth defects, diarrhea, and are at greater risk of HIV and AIDS.

Other factors such as access to clean water, sanitization and health care can have a large impact on resolving hunger in South Africa. They influence health and can lead to maintaining essential nutrients that may otherwise be lost due to diarrhea and dehydration.

– Rebecca Felcon

Sources: UNICEF, Food Bank, Mail and Guardian
Photo: Telegraph