Food insecurity ‘hits children hardest’

Children are bearing the brunt of food insecurity and hunger in South Africa, according to the Do More Foundation, which seeks to improve the lives of the country’s children.

The independent non-profit organisation is calling for a comprehensive national strategy to address food insecurity in South Africa.

Calling food insecurity the country’s “silent crisis”, the foundation’s executive director, Warren Farrer, said child malnutrition was often a forgotten consequence of inaction on food insecurity.

Farrer said that, at the height of the Covid crisis in 2020, 23.6% of South Africans were affected by moderate food insecurity and 14.9% suffered severe food insecurity.

“We ignore these reports at our peril, as they will have long-lasting consequences,” Farrer warned.

“Many families still live in dire poverty and low-resourced communities with limited access to sufficient nutritious food. Countrywide unemployment and continued job losses post-2020 have meant that the public’s pockets have been tightened to such an extent that even the most basic of needs is a budget stretch, causing families to seek food that costs less, regardless of the nutritional value.”

Now food prices were skyrocketing, but children had a right to nutrition.

“Food prices may seem far removed from a children’s rights issue, but it is in fact, critical to any discussion on sustainable development moving forward.”

Farrer said food insecurity had to be addressed urgently, and required a multi-faceted approach with a comprehensive strategy involving various stakeholders.

Targeted nutrition education to promote child health and dietary diversity is crucial for optimal brain development and to reduce the risk of stunting from the age of six months.

The government’s response to food insecurity should include scaling policies and national nutrition programmes to cater to the right of all citizens to sufficient nutritious food and clean water, as enshrined in the South African Bill of Rights.

“Adequate funding provision and strong leadership are essential in achieving this goal,” he said.

“The urgent need for mutual cooperation to implement policies and programmes that address the underlying causes of food insecurity are undeniable.

“We have to act now to promote sustainable agriculture, improve livelihoods, and provide social support for the most vulnerable in our society, our children,” Farrer concluded.