The government should consider providing the same financial assistance it offered at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic to save the poor from starvation and to mitigate the sharp rise in food prices.
According to the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity Group (PMBEJD), the average cost of the grocery basket has increased by R271.89 over the past 10 months, from R3 856.34 in September to R4 128.23 in June, forcing families to do many nutritious foods omit foods from your shopping list.
President Cyril Ramaphosa returned the country to lockdown level 4 this week in response to the havoc the new Delta variant of Covid-19 is wreaking across the country, particularly in Gauteng.
At the very least, the government should restore the support it received in the first and second waves
Mervyn Abrahams, PMBEJDD program coordinator
The hunger problem is global. The World Bank telephone survey of 48 countries found that significant numbers of people are either running out of food or reducing their consumption.
Even before the outbreak of the pandemic, global hunger was skyrocketing, and the number of undernourished people rose from an estimated 624 million people in 2014 to 688 million in 2019, including people struggling with chronic and acute hunger. According to the World Bank, the drivers of this trend included extreme climate events, conflicts and other shocks to the economies of some countries.
The PMBEJD’s Household Affordability Index last month collected food price data from 44 supermarkets and 30 butcher shops in Johannesburg (Soweto, Alexandra, Tembisa and Hillbrow), Durban (KwaMashu, Umlazi, Isipingo, Durban CBD and Mtubatuba), Cape Town (Khayelitsha, Gugulethu , Philippi, Langa, Delft and Dunoon), Pietermaritzburg and Springbok in the Northern Cape.
“Mothers tell us that high food prices have undermined proper nutrition on family plates. This removed an important line of defense against Covid-19 and other common diseases. Children and women are more susceptible to disease, ”said Mervyn Abrahams, PMBEJD program coordinator.
“It is likely that the long lines of starvation we saw in the first and second waves in need of food aid will recur [in the third wave]. This is because the state has taken away all income support [grants], wages have not risen, unemployment remains unsustainably high, jobs continue to be lost and food prices have risen.
“At least the government should reinstate the support that was given in the first and second waves: the top-ups on the [children’s] Grants and the Covid-19 Special Aid Grant, “Abrahams said.
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He warned that high food prices and lack of jobs could lead to social disorder and instability – as has happened throughout history.
“At some point the cautious protests will become more violent, the movement of goods and services on our public roads will be restricted, and private property and state security will be threatened. The right of a hungry child and hungry mother to exist, to survive, to eat becomes far more important than any right to private property, ”he said.
Abrahams said that as staple food prices rise, there will be less money to secure other important and mostly nutritious foods that are essential to good health, general well-being, and a strong immune system.
Core foods make up 54% of the total cost of a household’s grocery basket, and with an average cost of R2 240.15 last month, these foods were very expensive, like this, relative to the money available in the household budget to buy groceries Study found.
Grocery basket for the household (June 2021)
“These foods have to be bought regardless of price increases. The high cost of staple foods means that many proper nutritious foods are removed from family plates. The consequences of the high cost of staple foods have a negative impact on general health and household well-being. “
The research also found that all households’ grocery baskets, except for the one in Johannesburg, decreased slightly over the past month but did not bring any relief to households in trouble.
“High food prices continue to harm low-income families and take nutritious food off the plate while they are starting families, especially women.” [because women eat last and sacrifice their nutrition for their families] and children [because they need highly nutritious foods to develop properly], more susceptible to disease, ”the report said.
High food prices were exacerbated by the rise in unemployment last year and the national minimum wage remains low.
Stats SA’s quarterly labor force survey for the first quarter of this year showed that unemployment had risen. The unemployment rate for black South Africans is 47.9%, or just over 10 million unemployed.
“A worker’s wages must now be redistributed to support 4.3 people. With such low basic wages and such high costs for food, electricity and transportation, workers find it difficult to support their families, even if they only have the basic level necessary to function, be productive and be healthy ”, it says in the report.
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Last month, the national monthly minimum wage for a general worker was R3 643.92. Non-negotiable expenses such as transportation to work and electricity accounted for 52.3% or R 907.50 of that amount, leaving workers R 1,736.42 for other household expenses.
“The average cost of the PMBEJD staple food basket for a family of four last month was R2,859.60. According to these data, if the remaining money after transportation and electricity were used for food, families would still have a food shortage of 39.3%. [less R1 123.18]. ”
The PMBEJD noted that the child nutrition crisis would worsen and that South Africa would face a future health implosion if the nutritional needs of women and children were not met.
“Last month, the average cost of feeding a child a nutritious staple food was R 729.05. The monthly child benefit allowance of R460 is 21% below the food poverty line of R585 per capita and another 37% below the cost of R729. 05 in the last month for feeding a child with a nutrient-rich basic food, ”according to the study.
Public clinics and hospitals, the organization warned, would be overrun with “everyday illnesses” that would normally be warded off by a regular food plate.
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