Dr. Tshepo Motsepe, South Africa’s First Lady, has called on the country’s ministers to prioritise bringing an end to child hunger.
This comes as a result of a report published last week that showed that South Africa has failed to prevent stunted growth in children in the last 20 years.
The Child Gauge Report, published by the Children's Institute at the University of Cape Town, is released annually and shows South Africa’s progress in supporting and protecting its children. This year, the report was released under the theme: The Slow Violence of Malnutrition.
Motsepe delivered the opening address at the launch of the report, and used it as an opportunity to call on South Africa’s cabinet to strengthen food security nets for the country’s children.
“Long before the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic, we as a country have been acutely aware that a significant number of South Africans do not have access to sufficient food and go hungry on a daily basis,” she said.
[Read] South Africa’s First Lady, Dr Tshepo Motsepe, has called on the Ministers responsible for food and nutrition security to strengthen food safety nets for children #ChildGaugehttps://t.co/fhkkYWx86Qpic.twitter.com/jHPOw8t9j3— @SAgovnews (@SAgovnews) February 18, 2021
“The extent of child malnutrition in South Africa has often been documented and it is with distress that we learn of the deteriorating situation, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown restrictions,” she continued.
The report revealed that there has been no improvement in the prevention of stunted growth in the country’s children since the late 1990s. An estimated 27% of South Africa’s children under the age of five are stunted, meaning that they have experienced prolonged under-nutrition, which affects their physical and brain development, and the situation could potentially be worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the report, nearly half of South Africa's mothers and children went hungry for parts of last year due to the pandemic. With large numbers of citizens becoming unemployed as a result of COVID-19, researchers also found that 47% of households ran out of money to buy food in May and June last year.
In her remarks, Motsepe suggested that the country strengthen existing food security nets to support the growth of children; these include the National School Nutrition Programme, the Early Child Development subsidy, the implementation of campaigns for exclusive breastfeeding, programmes of food supplementation, and the improvement of social protection policies.
She highlighted that malnutrition has an impact on children’s futures and robs them of good health and well-being.
She said: “It is a slow violence against our children, and we cannot thrive as a country when our children are shackled to a life of hunger and malnutrition… We cannot turn our eyes away from images that mirror the gravity of hunger in our society.”
According to the Daily Maverick, the report will be presented to the government for further discussion and recommendations ahead of its mid-term review of the national food security plan.