Whether this indicates that we are reaching “the peak” remains to be seen but what is clear is that things are going to get a lot worse before they get better. What is also clear is that with many households losing their sources of income as a result of the pandemic and its associated lockdown, our country is at the cusp of a malnutrition crisis. Already pre-pandemic, 27% of children in SA suffered from stunted growth and development from chronic malnutrition, malnutrition contributed, as an underlying factor, in at least two-thirds of child deaths in South Africa, ¼ of pregnant women reported going hungry and 25% of households lived below the food poverty line. For the poorest 40% of the population, there is no nutritional reserve and this economic shock will push many over the line into acute malnutrition. Worsening nutrition will increase the number of low birth weight babies, and increase susceptibility to infections, firstly to Covid-19 and then of childhood illnesses such as diarrhoea and measles. This could result in secondary epidemics, especially if the health services are already overwhelmed by Covid-19. Now with food prices up by 30% and the economy in a downward spin, it’s become more important than ever to think innovatively and to be efficient in our food relief responses.
The government has taken the nutritional threats to the country seriously and has temporarily increased the child support grant (CSG), however, there are still many poor families who don’t receive any form of social assistance. These include many South Africans who do not have identity documents and foreign nationals who are not permanent residents. The CSG is also not available to pregnant women (a critical time of heightened nutritional need), and with many government institutions only recently re-opening post the hard lockdown, there are the inevitable delays in registration and access to grants for new mothers. The distribution of food parcels in response to the above has also proven itself to be fraught with difficulty. Distributing food parcels is expensive, logistically complicated and risky, both for COVID-19 transmission and corruption.
It is clear that to address the needs of the vulnerable in our society we need to think out of the box. Over the past three months, we’ve tried to do just that, We have distributed over 12 000 foodparcel to vulnerable people across all 9 provinces..
Critically, it has ensured that almost 8,000 children will have food on the table for the next two months. This will give 150,000 needy in disadvantaged communities peace of mind, and allows them to focus on the immense challenges that they are facing as a rural and underprivileged community.