Prior to COVID-19, many South African households were already burdened with high levels of malnutrition. But then the pandemic came, and things got worse — lockdown restrictions left many families without income, some without access to social relief support, increasing the number of people not receiving safe, sufficient and nutritious food.
A quarter of South Africa’s children under five suffer from stunting — a condition that arises from prolonged undernutrition which affects their physical and brain development, especially during pregnancy and the first two years of life. Stunted children are more likely to drop out of school, struggle with unemployment and live in poverty as adults.
National surveys estimate that a quarter of pregnant women report going hungry and 25% of households live below the food poverty line. As if that was not enough, 2.5 million young children live in households that can’t cover their basic nutritional needs.
The reality is simple: our nation cannot rebuild and recover economically when 25% of its population is unjustly denied the right to their full potential by stunting.
South Africa offers a child support grant but families only qualify for this once their child is born — excluding pregnant women from benefiting. Pregnancy is a time of increased vulnerability and cost. This is despite the fact that a child’s growth and brain development in the womb relies mostly on adequate nutrition. We have the opportunity to change this.
Over 30,000 Global Citizens have already signed the petition calling on the government to act. Now, we need to get firmer. If we can show the Minister of Social Development, Ms. Lindiwe Zulu, that many of us are concerned about this issue, she’ll have no choice but to prioritise this. Tell the minister: we want our children to have the best chance in life, right from the start!