Hidden Hunger in South Africa: The faces of hunger and malnutrition in a food-secure nation

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South Africa is supposedly a food-secure nation, producing enough calories to feed every one of its 53 million citizens. But despite some progress, one in four people currently suffers hunger on a regular basis and more than half of the population live in such precarious circumstances that they are at risk of going hungry. These figures should be a national scandal, but hunger and malnutrition rarely make the headlines in South Africa and are not at the top of decision makers
  www.oxfam.org/growTHE FACES OF HUNGER AND MALNUTR I TION IN A FOOD-SECURE NATION  Yoliswa Peggy Stemele BUYS BREAD FROM LOCAL SPAZA SHOP  Executive summary 21. Introduction62. Research methods83. Study findings10 3.1 What is hunger in South Africa? 103.2 More than half the population are at risk of hunger 123.3 Women and children are the human face of hunger 143.4 Jobs and livelihoods do not provide enough to buy adequate food 173.5 Food is available but inaccessible 193.6 Rising food prices have worsened hunger 203.7 Access to land and resources is limited 213.8 The food industry is dominated by large firms that control food access and availability 243.9 Poor households have good access to bad food but bad access to good food 253.10 Climate change is affecting poor people’s ability to cope 273.11 How hungry people stay afloat – some coping mechanisms 28 4. Previous policies have not worked305. Conclusion326. Recommendations34 References 36Annex A: Glossary 38Annex B: List of key informans interviewed 38Annex C: Poverty hearings methodology and survey 39Acknowledgements 40 Front cover A MEMBER OF THE DIMBAZA AGRICULTURAL COOPERATIVE, EASTERN CAPE  South Africa is considered a ‘food-secure’ nation, producing enough calories to adequately feed every one of its 53 million people. However, the reality is that, despite some progress since the birth of democracy in 1994, one in four people currently suffers hunger on a regular basis and more than half of the population live in such precarious circumstances that they are at risk of going hungry. The numbers of people facing hunger can be estimated at some 13 million in total. These numbers are disturbing, but behind every statistic is a face with a story about what it is like to face hunger in a nation where the few have plenty. This paper is based on the testimonies of women and men, urban and rural, and elucidates what it feels like to face hunger on a regular basis or to be constantly afraid of this threat. ‘[It is] genocide of the mind … because it affects the mind (fosters negative thoughts), the spirit (state of hopelessness) and the physical being (hunger).’  - CHIEF OF KHOISAN,  Bloemendal, Eastern Cape Hunger, as described by participants in this study, means more than physical sensations of emptiness or pain, more than incessant cravings that cannot be satisfied. It is described by those interviewed as a phenomenon that creates ‘genocide of the mind’, inducing hopelessness and despair, depriving hungry individuals of dignity and demeaning them as social beings. Hunger is a personal and a communal malaise that crushes the potential of people to get out of poverty and to prosper. It is a manifestation of, and helps to perpetuate, damaging social inequality: poor households have to spend nearly half of their income on food but have to suffice with cheap, expired and non-nutritious food, creating a society that has ‘good access to bad food and bad access to good food’. ‘We have to buy the cheapest of the cheapest. We are rated as the cheapest of the cheapest.’ - ELZETTA,  youth headed household, Bloemendal The following factors leading to food insecurity and hunger were identified by the people interviewed, either individually (key informants) or in focus group discussions (FGDs), and in the literature reviews: LOW INCOME AND UNEMPLOYMENT With unemployment levels at 25% nationally and over 15 million people receiving social grants, people do not have enough money to buy food. People in employment or who have casual jobs indicated that they are food-secure in the first week after their wages are paid but are often food-insecure for the remaining three weeks in the month. Low-paid and irregular work reduces stability of access to food. Social grants provide a crucial safety net to many. 2
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