NATIONAL NEWS - Food security has become a national crisis with some evidence suggesting that roughly 50% of the country’s population is food insecure or at risk of food insecurity.
This was reported by the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) during a Joint Portfolio Committee meeting held in parliament on Friday.
According to the agency, the situation could be largely attributed to growing poverty and unemployment levels, exacerbated by levels of inequality, and evidence suggests that the problem of food insecurity is concentrated in rural and informal settlements around cities.
Evidence suggesting high incidences of food insecurity, hunger and malnutrition in South Africa in recent times, coupled with the trend of a loss of income for citizens as reported by Stats SA, may lead to higher levels of food insecurity in the country. SASSA said the percentage of respondents who reported receiving no income, has increased from 5,2% before the lockdown to 15,4% by the sixth week of the national lockdown, and further increases are expected.
In 2018, citizens with inadequate or a severe lack of access to food in the country totalled 13 930 354, or 23,8% of the population, but the lockdown has severely exacerbated the problem, it was heard.
The access to food problem was more serious in the North West (36,6%), Northern Cape (32,3%), Mpumalanga (28,4%), and the Eastern Cape (25,4%), according to SASSA. Informal settlements in KwaZulu-Natal, the Western Cape, Eastern Cape and Gauteng are also badly affected: Ethekwini, Gugulethu, Alexandra, Diepsloot, Orange-farm, Mamelodi, Winterveldt, Buffalo City and Nelson Mandela Bay are among these informal settlements.
- From 1 April to 25 May, a total of 523 490 food parcels were distributed by SASSA, reaching 2 093 960 people.
Adding those receiving food through the Solidarity Fund through NPOs, some 3 153 132 people were reached in total. The Department of Social Development (DSD) has partnered with the Solidarity Fund and co-funded the delivery of 58 750 food parcels to the value of R43 500 000, delivered through implementing agents.
SASSA and the department provide food relief and social relief of distress through the legislated processes administered by officials across the country, using NPOs as implementing agents, and also partnered with community-based organisations to distribute food parcels.
The delivery of food parcels is targeted at beneficiaries in Department of Social Development centre-based feeding programmes, households that have no income, and those affected by the lockdown:
- Households are screened/profiled by the department, and by SASSA.
- The Solidarity Fund distributed additional 250 000 food parcels in partnership with other national food relief organisations (Gift of the Givers, Food Forward, Islamic Relief).
- DSD monitors and keeps record of all food or food parcels distributed for coordination and report all interventions in a particular area.
- Any person who is distributing food or food parcels must inform their local police station of their intention to so do prior to the delivery of food or food parcels.
When food parcels are packed, the nutritional value of food items, cost-saving options, ease of handling during distribution, and social acceptability is considered, and food must preferably have a long shelf life. Essential non-food items such as soap, sanitary packs, candles, and soaps may also be included, as well as Covid-19 information leaflets.
High standards of hygiene must be observed at all times to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Assistance to be provided serves as a once-off cash payment where there is proof of the total loss/all possessions were destroyed, a voucher or a relief parcel. Every relief parcel should also include fresh produce which must be sourced from cooperatives and SMMEs.
Given the Covid-19 challenges, a system limiting face to face interaction and to manage social distancing was approved by SASSA and the DSD: The system is largely electronic and the following frontline application systems went live on 11 May: The USSD line *134*7737# , the SASSA website specifically for SRD https://srd.sassa.gov.za , the WhatsApp line 082 046 8553 and the e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.