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 in the early years of life 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 is 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 are unjustly denied the right to reach their full potential. South Africa offers a child support grant to poor and vulnerable families but this grant is only available once the infant is born, missing a critical window of opportunity in pregnancy when much of brain development is happening and when pregnancy women are especially vulnerable to unemployment and face increased financial pressures from pregnancy related transport, health and nutrition costs. We have the opportunity to change this.
Over 30,000 people 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