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Rising food insecurity in South Africa

Sameera Casmod |
12 June 2024 | 11:45 a.m. SAST
2-minute read

Image: Khaichuin Sim/Getty Images via News24

South Africa is facing an escalating food crisis, with the nation’s most vulnerable populations—women and children—bearing the brunt. The General Household Survey conducted by Statistics South Africa reveals a troubling rise in food insecurity leading up to 2023.

According to a report by SA Harvest, malnutrition is contributing to the annual deaths of 1 000 children.

Alan Browde, CEO of SA Harvest, highlighted the severity of the situation in an interview on Radio Islam International.

“We have 27 percent of our children up to the age of five, as a result of malnutrition, suffering from wasting and stunting,” Browde said. “This is just over a quarter of our children at that age, we’re looking at devastation for the families, but also an existential threat to our country. These kids will never be able to become productive members of the economy because of their early years of malnutrition.”

The statistics indicate that 20 million South Africans experience some level of food vulnerability, ranging from monthly financial shortfalls to millions going to bed hungry each night, including a significant number of children.

The root causes of this crisis are multifaceted. The high cost of nutritious food is a major factor, making it inaccessible to poor communities.

Historical economic policies play a significant role. When the African National Congress (ANC) took power, international institutions like the World Bank pushed for a market-driven food economy, discouraging government intervention. This laissez-faire approach has allowed large retailers to dominate, driving small farmers out of business and pushing food prices higher.

Browde elaborated on the consequences of these policies, “Small farming, which was able to supply smaller communities at farm gate prices, small farmers were obliterated. Because in the end, the stronger people, the retailers, they put downward pressure on all the prices. So you couldn’t make a living now from 20 cows. You had to have thousands of cows.”

This has widened the gap between the middle class and those in poverty, further entrenching food insecurity.

Browde stressed the need for intervention: “We need some control. We need some protection. And the ANC opted out. And as a result, the strong got stronger and the weak got weaker.”

Despite the abundance of food that many middle-class households enjoy, with overflowing fridges and freezers often leading to waste, millions of South Africans struggle to access basic nutrition.

This disparity highlights the urgent need for awareness and action to address food insecurity and support those in need.

In closing, Moulana Ravat called for greater consciousness and compassion from all South Africans: “There are people out there who can’t afford food that is adequately nutritious for them. There are people out there that are growing up with this rising food insecurity, and this is compromising their futures. May Allah Ta’ala save us and forgive us. May Allah Ta’ala make it easy for those who are afflicted.”

Listen to the full interview on Sabaahul Muslim with Moulana Sulaimaan Ravat here.


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