Working Papers

Why does malnutrition persist in South Africa despite social grants?

Published 25 January 2017, by Stephen Devereux and Jennifer Waidler

Publication: Food Security Working Paper #002

According to most subjective and self-reported indicators, food security in South Africa is improving over time.  However, objectively measured anthropometric indicators record only a marginal improvement in children’s nutrition status since the early 1990s. This is despite the introduction in 1998 and subsequent expansion of the Child Support Grant, which now reaches over 11 million children in South Africa and has been found to increase food consumption and dietary diversity in poor households. How can this paradox be explained? This paper reviews the evidence on food security and child nutrition trends in South Africa and identifies several reasons why nutrition outcomes appear to be lagging behind improvements in other food security indicators.

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