Hunger in SA: 'We sometimes go to bed on an empty stomach'

Tags: world hunger day, social grants, malnutrition, Institute of Development Studies, South Africa

On World Hunger Day, an overview of the country’s hungry people shows that South Africa’s social grants are just not enough for indigent families facing malnutrition.

South Africa’s child support grant, introduced in 1998 with the objective of improving the wellbeing of young children, was intended to reduce malnutrition. But surveys show that there has been no shift in child malnutrition rates since the 1990s, said Dr Stephen Devereux Co-Director of the Centre for Social Protection Institute of Development Studies (IDS).

A working paper published by the DST-NRF Centre of Excellence in Food Security suggests that for the country to eradicate malnutrition, child grants need to be increased so that parents can buy adequate food – especially in periods of drought and high price inflation. Also, since social grants on their own are not enough, other models such as cash transfers to access to basic services such as health, education and social services also need to be considered.

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According to Stats SA (2012), social grants contribute 42% of household income in poor families. Devereux says that families that survive on social grants often have to ration their consumption of basic needs, including food.