More than 40% of South Africans go to bed hungry every night – survey
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DURBAN - A recent survey has shed light on the alarming number of households that go to bed on an empty stomach every night.
In the 2021 edition of the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, Africa experienced the biggest jump, with the estimated prevalence of undernourishment currently residing at 21% of the population – more than double that of any other region.
Closer to home, the National Income Dynamics Study – Coronavirus Rapid Mobile Survey (NIDS-CRAM) revealed that during April/May 2021, approximately 2.3 million households reported child hunger, while an Ipsos study found that more than 40% of South Africans of all age groups were affected by hunger.
One Moment Foundation co-founder and CEO at Lionshare, Ike Cha, said the July riots only served to exacerbate a dire situation and put SA’s food security at risk. He said the past 18 months had severely worsened the local situation.
Through his involvement with the One Moment Foundation, Cha said that the relief efforts to provide food to communities hardest hit have needed to double down, given the fast-growing poverty.
"Within a short space of time, we started seeing more people on the streets in desperate hunger, forced to rifle through bins for food. Despite South Africa being one of the more food-secure countries in Africa, the pandemic had torn deeper holes in its socio-economic fabric," he said.
This is in line with the data from Ipsos, with around six out of 10 South Africans (58%) saying: “The Covid-19 pandemic has a negative impact on the income of my household.”
Lately, food security has been a hot topic, ignited by the civil unrest that swept across Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal in July 2021.
Cha said SA's supply chains were relatively quite robust – something uncommon in developing countries.
"The most notable problem is not necessarily our food supply but rather the inability of many South Africans to afford food. Inflation is also not helping on the affordability front: according to Statistics South Africa, South Africa’s consumer food price inflation was at 6.8% year-on-year in May 2021," Cha said.
Increasing world hunger has been widely attributed to what has been dubbed the “Triple C” effect: climate change, Covid-19 and conflict. Cha offered the recent looting as a pertinent example of the latter two.
“Consider the economic disparity and the deep poverty that already exists in South Africa. Then suddenly, a crisis of black swan proportions hits – the pandemic – and unemployment skyrockets.
Cha said in SA, one individual can be financially responsible for several family members, so if they suffer a job loss, the knock has a ripple effect. It’s a ticking time bomb for conflict and social upheaval.
As someone who grew up in a township, Cha is familiar with hunger and has channelled his philanthropic efforts into its eradication, as “without education, it’s far more difficult to exit poverty, and there’s no learning when your belly is growling”.
Cha has since gone on to become one of the country’s most prominent business leaders, leveraging his influence and YPO network to effect sustainable change within Gauteng and other South African communities.
"We are creating an ecosystem with other organisations, whereby we each fulfil a certain role or ‘link’ in the value chain. We have no head office or heavy overheads – instead, we channel all of our resources into food preparation and distribution across key touch-points within communities.
“Growing up in a township means that I have an understanding of how these communities work and how we can access passionate volunteers in order to have the greatest impact," he said.
He added that this lean and focused model was inspired by his tenure at YPO, where he was made to understand the power of a peer-to-peer network.
"YPO talks to leaders of impact, and the network is an integral component of this. Each individual is able to share their knowledge or resources while leveraging that of their peers. As individuals, we are but one, but together, we are able to create deep, meaningful and lasting impact," he said.
Cha said acknowledging that providing immediate hunger relief is one aspect and that the public and private sectors need to work together to design long-term solutions.
"As business leaders, it is our responsibility to create jobs – but we need government to create an environment through policies and laws that are conducive for business and job creation. We need to continue to support our communities and engage our resources to systematically reduce hunger and poverty," Cha said.