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Johannesburg - The number of South Africans who go hungry has decreased across the country, with households suffering inadequate or severely inadequate access to food dropping marginally from 23.9 percent in 2010 to 23.1 percent last year.
The percentage of individuals at risk of inadequate food stood at 26 percent during the last General Household Survey (GHS) last year, while households experiencing actual hunger was at 13.4 percent.
People in Limpopo were the hardest hit, with just over 13 percent going hungry, while those living in homes in North West experienced less food shortage problems.
The statistics, released by Statistician-General Pali Lehohla on Wednesday, showed a trend of wide disparities between the provinces across all indicators, with Gauteng (9 percent) and the Western Cape (7.9 percent) having higher figures of young people at an institution of higher learning.
Gauteng had the most adults accessing basic education and training, while Mpumalanga, Limpopo and the Eastern Cape had the least (2 percent, 2.3 percent and 2.8 percent, respectively).
The disparities were also noted in the practice of corporal punishment. Schools in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape recorded high numbers of incidents where pupils were still being beaten by their teachers.
“The provinces where corporal punishment was prevalent at schools were in the Eastern Cape (24.1 percent) and KZN (22.2 percent) while this sort of punishment was least likely to occur in the Western Cape, at 1.7 percent,” Lehohla said.
The survey, which covered 25 000 households across all provinces, also found that Mpumalanga and Limpopo had the highest percentage of people who had had no schooling (10.6 percent and 10.4 percent, respectively), while Gauteng (2 percent) and the Western Cape had the least, 1.2 percent.
The number of literate people over the age of 20 had increased by 1 percentage point, from 91.9 percent to 92.9 percent, since the 2010 survey, the Western Cape and Gauteng having the most people who could read and write.
While the survey found electricity to be the main source of energy for cooking in households, some homes still used coal, firewood and paraffin.
Those in Gauteng, the Western Cape and Free State mostly used electricity while alternative fuels dominated homes in Limpopo, the Eastern Cape and KZN.
The use of gas was more prevalent in Western Cape homes, but none used coal. Homes in the Eastern Cape relied mainly on wood and, with Gauteng, were also the highest users of paraffin.
Lehohla said the country was at the peak of access to water, with 89 percent of homes receiving piped water. He said that was a substantial improvement from previous surveys, but added that satisfaction among people had been eroding since 2005.
Some said the water smelt bad while others rated it as unsafe to drink, that it was not clear or it did not taste good.
Less than 45 percent had piped water to their homes, 26 percent accessed it near home, 15.2 percent relied on communal taps while 4.2 percent fetched it from rivers, streams, stagnant water pools, dams, wells and springs.
The survey found that salaries remained the major source of income across all provinces, but most prominently in the Western Cape and Gauteng, where more than two-thirds reported salaries were their main source of income.
Grants remained the main source for families in the Eastern Cape, Limpopo, Northern Cape and Free State, while many homes in Limpopo relied on remittances.
The ownership of assets also varied from province to province and rural to urban and metro areas. The electric stove was more common in metros and least abundant in rural areas.
At 11 percent, rural homes had a limited number of washing machines, and fewer fridges, computers and vehicles.
People living in metros had the most cars, television sets and fridges, with urban dwellers owning almost as many of those household goods as in the metros.