File picture: African News Agency (ANA)
File picture: African News Agency (ANA)

Lockdown contributed to perpetual hunger for 2.2 million South Africans - study

By Sihle Mlambo Time of article published Jul 15, 2020

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Johannesburg - The latest National Income Dynamics Study (NIDS) Coronavirus Rapid Mobile Survey (CRAM) has unveiled the heightened levels of hunger that confronted many South Africans in April this year - the "peak" of the Covid-19 lockdown. 

The first wave of the study also found that 3 million people - mostly poor black women - had lost their jobs between February and April at the height of the stringent level five lockdown. 

The NIDS-CRAM study was conducted by 30 social science researchers from five South African universities - UCT, Stellenbosch, Wits, Rhodes and UJ.

The researchers surveyed 7 000 households and they found that 47% of respondents reported that their household ran out of money to buy food in April 2020.

From the same sample, 21% of households said they had ran out of money to buy food in the previous year - showing the effects of the lockdown on the poor.

“The NIDS-CRAM Wave 1 data shows that 47% of the respondents reported that they had run out of money to buy food in a single month, April. 

“Given that the second measure is a much stricter measure of food insecurity it seems quite clear that the incidence of running out of money to buy food has more than doubled,” researchers sad..

The survey said between May/June, one in five respondents had reported that someone in their household had gone hungry in the last seven days, and another one in five reported that a child had gone hungry in the last seven days.

“21% of respondents answered that someone had gone hungry in the last 7 days and in households with a child, 15% respondents reported that a child had gone hungry in the last 7 days,” the study said.

Data: National Income Dynamics Study Coronavirus Rapid Mobile Survey

It also noted that frequent hunger - defined as more than three days in a week - was recorded in one out of every eight households.

Perpetual hunger - defined as every day - was recorded in one out of 14 respondents.

“13% reported that someone in their household had gone hungry for three or more days in the last 7 days. 

“The most comparable pre-lockdown statistic comes from the GHS, which showed that only 5% of households reported skipping meals for “5 days in the past 30 days” in 2018. 

“By comparison, NIDS-CRAM Wave 1 shows that 7% of respondents report that someone in the household went hungry ‘Almost every day’ or ‘Every day’ in the last 7 days. 

“Using the NIDS-CRAM weights, these respondents represent 2.2 million individuals in South Africa,” it said.

The Wave 1 report also found that grant recipients got an “income shock” because of the pandemic.

“There is often a misconception that poor, grant-receiving households are ‘immune’ to income shocks because they get grants. 

“Pandemic-induced job losses present a major threat to the livelihoods of a large proportion of grant-receiving households precisely because earnings has been an important source of income for most grant-receiving households. 

“The General Household Survey of 2018 shows that three-quarters of grant-receiving households reported that they received some income from employment, a business or remittances. 

“It further shows that for 44% of grant-receiving households wages from employment or business income was the main source of income for the household. 

“This can partly explain why hunger has been exacerbated despite grant income not changing or even increasing,” the report said.

It said for households with children, 8% reported frequent child hunger and 4% reported perpetual hunger.

Among those who had reported of children going hungry at least once in a seven-day period, 84% of respondents said that there was at least one recipient of a child support grant in the household, and 89% if an old-age pension was included. 

“Furthermore, in households where the respondent indicated that someone had gone hungry (an adult or a child), 72% have either a child or old-age pension in the household, and 63% have at least a child support grant in the household. 

“Pre-lockdown, three-quarters of grant-receiving households relied on income sources other than grants,” the report said, quashing misconceptions that grant recipients were immune to the pandemic and only relied on welfare grants.

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