School feeding scheme; child hunger; povertyFile picture: African News Agency (ANA)
School feeding scheme; child hunger; povertyFile picture: African News Agency (ANA)

Child hunger remains extremely high, shack dwellers worst off, survey finds

By Mwangi Githahu Time of article published Jul 9, 2021

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Cape Town - Child hunger remains extremely high and shack-dwellers have fared the worst of urban South Africans, according to the fifth National Income Dynamics Study – Coronavirus Rapid Mobile (NIDS-CRAM) survey.

In April/May, 14% of households indicated a child had gone hungry in the past seven days. This was similar to the February/March level of 14%.

During the same period, the survey found that approximately 10 million people and 3 million children were in a household affected by hunger in the past seven days.

To come up with the responses they received in their survey, the researchers asked participants the question: “In the last seven days has anyone in your household gone hungry because there wasn’t enough food?”

If a respondent indicated yes then the researchers deemed that household to have been affected by hunger.

The survey said: “Examining trends of food insecurity and hunger by race group, it is clear that while household food insecurity has declined in each population group, household hunger and child hunger has not significantly declined for any race group.

“Overall, hunger has been most severe in the black African population in every wave of the NIDS-CRAM study.”

The survey also found that shack-residents have fared the worst of urban South Africans.

“Asked if anyone in their household had experienced hunger in the last seven days because there was not enough money for food, nearly one in four, 23%, shack dwellers said someone had gone hungry in April/May.

The rates were slightly lower for residents in peri-urban areas, where 21% experienced hunger, and townships, where the number was18%. It was significantly lower for suburban residents at 6%.

According to the report: “Shack-dwellers have the highest rates of hunger and one of the slowest rates of employment recovery for those living in urban areas, given the hard lockdown when informal trading was prohibited. Their subsequent recovery has also been the most muted.”

The survey found that while townships and peri-urban areas also faced a sharp drop in jobs during the lockdown, they have had more robust bounce-backs, while the reduction in employment levels for suburban residents was the mildest and they had almost fully recovered by March.

The survey’s authors said the removal of grant top-ups in 2020 and the discontinuing of the special Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress grant of R350 at the end of April would likely contribute to rising hunger across the country.

“The reduced availability of money from grants and the tight economic situation are reasons why levels of hunger are likely to remain stubbornly high or perhaps even to increase, and stricter lockdown regulations may again further reduce employment and income from informal economic activities,” according to the survey.

According to the survey, one in three shack residents said someone in their household received the R350 SRD grant in April/May.

“Given that this grant expired at the end of April, these households will have been even more economically precarious from May onwards,” said the survey.

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