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Hunger could be as big a threat as Covid-19

Published May 19, 2020, by Admin

Vulnerable households are struggling to put food on the table as the government lockdown puts their livelihoods on hold. Vouchers and food parcels help, but are they enough to prevent malnutrition?

While the spread of Covid-19 has disrupted everyone’s lives, the impoverished are hardest hit. With no income, hunger becomes a real threat. For the impoverished, starvation could be worse than the fear of contracting the coronavirus.

Also feeling the pinch of hunger are children of school-going age. Since schools closed at the start of the pandemic, they have been unable to access a daily and often life-saving meal. School feeding schemes provide healthy meals to nine million schoolchildren across the country, according to Coretta Jonah, a researcher and coordinator at the DSI-NRF Centre of Excellence in Food Security at the University of the Western Cape.

“For many children, school meals are a stable source of nutritious food. The sudden loss of this food increases the risk of poor health and malnutrition … given that parents whose children are part of such programmes have come to depend on these school feeding programmes to provide a healthy meal for their children,” Jonah says.

An unwelcome consequence of hunger, she adds, is the likely resurgence in underweight and wasting children, which had been reduced substantially in South Africa. Wasting is also known as “acute malnutrition”, when a young child’s condition deteriorates rapidly over a short time because of a lack of nutrition.

The Covid-19 lockdown is also detrimental to the finances of low-income families, say Jonah and two of her peers, Julian May and Winnie Sambu, in an article on The Conversation website. “If households use some of their scarce resources to buy the sanitising and hygiene products in efforts to combat Covid-19, this will come at the cost of food and other essentials. Dietary diversity may be reduced, increasing the risk of micronutrient deficiencies.

This is an edited version of an article that was originally published by News Frame. Read the full article here.

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