World Food Day is not only about celebrating the consumption of food, but also remembering those who may not be able to partake in it. A report released by social justice group Oxfam shows that 26% of South Africans are not adequately fed on a regular basis. This finding is even more shocking when one considers that South Africa is one of the wealthiest African countries, and has no considerable shortage of food supply, but rather that people cannot afford to buy food. Informal rural communities are hardest hit by food insecurity, due to unemployment, underdeveloped infrastructure and exorbitant food costs. Thirty-eight percent of inhabitants in these areas do not know where they will get their next meal. The situation in urban areas is also dire, with 20% of residents facing daily hunger and a similar proportion at risk of going hungry.
Global food insecurity
On a global scale, the number of people suffering from food insecurity has decreased by 100 million over the past ten years, but progress in sub-Saharan Africa remains slow. Factors affecting food insecurity in this region include conflict and natural disasters. This stands in contrast to Asian, Latin American and Caribbean regions, where significant inroads have been made in fighting poverty and food insecurity. To continue fighting this scourge, the UN suggests the following interventions:
- Public and private investments to raise agricultural productivity;
- Better access to inputs, land, services, technologies and markets;
- Measures to promote rural development;
- Social protection for the most vulnerable, including strengthening their resilience to conflicts and natural disasters;
- Specific nutrition programmes, particularly to address micronutrient deficiencies in mothers and children under five.
When quality food becomes too expensive, people often turn to cheaper, but nutritionally inferior alternatives. The Oxfam report makes a case of Elzetta from Joburg, who has a daily budget of R6 to feed herself and three dependants. With these limited funds, her main choices are starchy foods with a very low glycaemic index – foods such as potatoes, rice and bread. Transport costs also eat into funds which could have otherwise been used to feed families. These nutritional choices are also partly to blame for over half of the population over 15 years of age being obese, researchers have found.
Oxfam concluded the study by suggesting that addressing food security was at the core of solving a host of societal problems, and that “food insecurity and hunger destroy human potential, strip away human dignity and foster inequality throughout society.”
Do you encounter chronic hunger on a daily basis? Are you involved with feeding schemes in your community? Let us know.
Read the Oxfam report titled Hidden Hunger in SA: The Faces of Hunger and Malnutrition in a Food Secure Nation.