Breast milk plays a vital role in reducing child mortality. It has all the nutrients a baby needs in the first six months of life and its health benefits extend into adulthood. This is why organisations, like UNICEF and the World Health Organisation (WHO), recommend exclusive breastfeeding – no other food or drink, not even water – for infants in this period.

A lot is still uncertain about breastfeeding practices in South Africa. Getty Images

Injecting purchasing power into poor households will stimulate demand and assist economic recovery. Reimagining social security in South Africa is not only a humanitarian imperative and a means of achieving social justice, it makes economic sense. It is something that the country cannot afford not to do.

The country will take years to recover economically. Ziyaad Douglas/Gallo Images via Getty Images

Sofia Sprechmann of humanitarian organisation Care International didn’t mince any words when she recently wrote on the impact that the COVID-19 has had on women: if before the crisis economic parity for women was still a good 257 years away, the pandemic has set that clock even further aback.

The coronavirus crisis has been a massive setback for the push for economic equality for women.

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Across the world, COVID-19 has persuaded people to think more carefully about changing their behaviour.  We need the private sector, NGOs and government officials to change their behaviour, for example, by prioritising the sale of food that is healthy over food that is profitable, and favouring community-driven approaches over top-down directives.

The world is in an unprecedented situation in which unprecedented moves must be made, and we should be ready to acknowledge mistakes and improve our individual and collective behaviours.

Despite South Africa’s food secure status at national level and the evidence that the country produces more food than it needs, there is a worrying degree of food insecurity at household level. The 2017 Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) report “Towards measuring the extent of food security in South Africa: An examination of hunger and food inadequacy” reveals that 20% of households did not have access to adequate food during the period studied.

The private sector, NGOs and government should prioritise the sale of food that is healthy over food that is profitable, and favouring community-driven approaches over top-down directives.

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If SA wants to achieve food and nutrition sustainability, agriculture policies will need to shift away from chemical subsidies to support partnerships, mentorship, shorter value chains, increased biodiversity and a long-term approach to soil fertility and animal nutrition. Undoubtedly, agroecology has an important role to play in this process.

Already facing a multidimensional agricultural crisis, South Africa urgently needs to direct more funding for agricultural research that serves the public good, rather than just assisting to boost agribusiness profits. New cuts to the agriculture budget will further put our food security at risk. The agricultural research community has a key role to play in contributing to sustainable resource management and food security.

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On Monday 13 July the Minister of Social Development, Lindiwe Zulu, unexpectedly let a BIG cat out of the bag when she announced that a Basic Income Grant (BIG), could be introduced for unemployed working age South Africans. The next day the Minister walked back from this announcement, clarifying that this is only an idea under discussion.

The original ‘BIG’ idea was that every person in South Africa would receive a payment from the state of R100 every month. This was recommended by the Taylor Committee in its report on comprehensive social security back in 2002, and it provoked a heated debate. Although Zola Skweyiya, then Minister for Social Development, supported this proposal, then Minister of Finance Trevor Manuel did not – he famously claimed that a Basic Income Grant would “bankrupt” South Africa. The idea of a BIG has been revived and dismissed at various times since then, but it has been quiet in recent years – until Minister Zulu put it on the table again in the context of a post-COVID-19 response.

The cost of any social grant depends on two figures: the number of beneficiaries and the amount they will be paid

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Study shows nonylphenol reduces plant size and cell permeability in lettuce. The man-made chemical, nonylphenol, hampers the growth of fresh produce.

Study shows nonylphenol reduces plant size and cell permeability in lettuce. Image credit: Getty Images

Although there is no specific research that shows the positive effects of high-fibre foods in helping to fight against COVID-19, some existing research has suggested its beneficial effects against viral infection. Good gut health could be a key line of defence against viral infections. A healthy, balanced diet with the inclusion of functional foods such as plant dietary fibre found in vegetables and fruits, nuts, whole grains, and fermented foods that are rich in probiotics could help us to strengthen our immune system to act against viral infections.

Diet is a significant determinant for the increase of disease risk. Accordingly, emerging evidence has shown that functional foods may impact gut-related diseases and dysfunctions that are linked with lifestyle changes and age. The importance of the colonic microbiota in human health and well-being is a major breakthrough in both medical and nutrition research, even if this still remains to be fully understood.

Food insecurity is a reality for many South African households. Food aid parcels will see may households through one of the greatest pandemics of our time. Approximately 50% of households live under the poverty line and cannot afford basic healthy eating. Low-income households typically spend about a third of total expenditure on food. The spread of the global COVID-19 pandemic to South Africa is causing further pressure on vulnerable households facing temporary or permanent employment interruptions. In addition, the primary caretakers of these households now have more mouths to feed, including children that previously benefited from the National School Feeding Programme also relying on their primary care givers for food.
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The COVID-19 outbreak in South Africa has forced government to develop interventions to ensure vulnerable households have access to safe and nutritious food during the current state of emergency. Gauteng is home to just over a quarter of the South Africa population and is viewed as the economic hub of the country. In Gauteng the food parcel relief scheme is available to citizens who earn a combined household income of less than R3,600, as well as to recipients of South African social security agency pensioner, disability, child welfare and military veteran grants.

Food aid parcels being distributed in Gauteng includes: starch-rich foods (10kg maize meal and 5kg rice), protein-source foods (1kg soya, two tins of baked beans, two tins of fish and 880g peanut butter), two litres of cooking oil, one packet of tea bags, 2.5kg sugar, 1kg salt and three non-food items (one bottle of dish-washing liquid, one bottle of all-purpose cleaner and two bars of laundry washing soap). In the Gauteng province approximately 7,000 food parcels are requested daily. By early April 8,000 families had received food parcels.

The president, Cyril Ramaphosa, has also announced that a further 250,000parcels will be distributed across the country

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