Flashback to day 14 of the national Lockdown in April 2020 when learners at Trevor Manual Primary school in Fisantekraal near Durbanville received food parcels. Picture Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA).
Flashback to day 14 of the national Lockdown in April 2020 when learners at Trevor Manual Primary school in Fisantekraal near Durbanville received food parcels. Picture Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA).

Child hunger increased despite jobs bounce-back, survey shows

By Mwangi Githahu Time of article published Feb 18, 2021

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Cape Town - Data from the National Income Dynamics Study – Coronavirus Rapid Mobile (Nids-Cram) survey shows that South Africa witnessed an increase in child hunger, from 12% in July to 16% in November, at the same time as a jobs bounce-back.

Nids-Cram co-principal investigator Nic Spaull, said: “Child hunger decreased from a high of 15% in May to 12% in July 2020.

“The latest results now show that this has returned to its highest level of 16% in November 2020. Put differently, in November one-in-six households with children in them reported that a child had gone hungry in the past week. Household hunger has also increased.”

Nids-Cram is a social survey of 6 000 people on the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic, conducted by a group of academics from several universities. This is the third set of results and comes from surveys conducted between October and December last year.

At the same time, the survey found evidence of a substantial job market recovery in October 2020 compared with April during the Level 5 lockdown and June during the Level 3 lockdown.

The survey found: “Job recovery was stronger for those with more education, especially among the youth. The positive correlation between education and employment was also found for adults aged from 25 to 40, but not for adults aged from 41 to 55.

“Despite the jobs recovery, the data shows there has been substantial churning in the labour market. Of those who lost their jobs in April 2020, only half were employed again by October 2020. The labour market now no longer looks the same as it did before the pandemic.”

Researcher Ruth Hall, from the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies, said: “It is clear that it is not just the lockdown levels and shaping of jobs that affect hunger outcomes. Of course jobs aren’t an end in themselves, but food systems change may be critical to curbing hunger.”

Stellenbosch University economics professor Servaas van der Berg said: “Child hunger is a critical policy concern, especially given that it could lead to stunting, a longer term manifestation of poor nutrition and health."

A director at Breadline Africa, Marion Wagner, said: “Without regular nutritious food, a child’s mental and physical development may be seriously affected, and that has negative consequences for the rest of the child’s life.

“This is why feeding programmes among vulnerable South African communities play an absolutely crucial role in keeping young children alive and ensuring they are able to reach their full potential. Education is the only real path out of poverty.”

FNB chief executive Jacques Celliers said: “In 2020, FNB rolled out financial and non-financial support to minimise the impact of the Covid-19 global pandemic on customers and vulnerable communities. We galvanised support for early childhood centres (ECDs) to ensure that children and families who rely on ECDs for meals continued to receive food.”

Founder of Yebo Fresh, Jessica Boonstra, said: “ECDs are a core element to the provision of food aid to children from impoverished communities. However, since the start of the pandemic, over 13 000 people employed at ECDs have lost their jobs, and over 100 000 children were unable to attend ECD programmes while the centres were closed.”

Boonstra, whose company delivers food exclusively to Cape Town townships, said: “In many cases, this meant children went without meals that their families heavily relied on, and many people in our country are struggling to make ends meet.”

Cape Argus

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