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LETTER: Tackle the hunger menace now

The balance of money still held in the Solidarity Fund should be used immediately to alleviate hunger

08 June 2020 – 14:59

About 55% of South Africans (33-million souls) are marginalised, deleteriously affected by joblessness and underfed from living below the upper poverty datum line. According to Stats SA, the latest available figures (released nearly a year ago) are those for April 2019: R561 for the lower poverty datum line; R810 for the food poverty datum and R1,227 per person per month for the upper line. Food prices have increased by about 7% since the lockdown commenced, but general economic activity has unavoidably decreased.

Hunger impacts the land, according to our academics and activists, and this is worsened by the regulations for the pandemic lockdown. Ponder the length of the queues at food distribution points. Consider Prof Glenda Gray’s warning of increased malnutrition in children of the poor. And yet it is reported that food production is unaffected by the pandemic (being an essential service), surpluses exist and a third of the food produced ends up in landfills, not empty stomachs.

This is an intolerable and scandalous situation, especially as it impacts negatively on children who suffer malnutrition and will never be able to recover fully from the effects of hunger. Malnourished children cannot compete on a level playing field with their well-fed compatriots who attend early childhood development (ECD) facilities. The regulations of the pandemic are collapsing the private ECD facilities in the land. All ECD facilities remain closed.

The balance of the funds still held in the Solidarity Fund should be applied to alleviating hunger immediately. The political will and logistical skill have to be mustered to overcome the disjuncture between excess food and starvation in SA. If the government does not urgently respond to lobbying, then prodding via an urgent application to the Constitutional Court claiming declaratory, mandatory and supervisory relief is needed, failing which hunger will engender anarchy.

Paul Hoffman, SC, Director, Accountability Now

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