28 May 2012

The plight of the hungry recognised

AL2446_1227_The SAHA Poster Collection.May 28 was marked as World Hunger Day to recognise the plight of those living in poverty, to raise awareness about the problem of hunger, as well as to come up with initiatives to deal with this human right issue. The initiative can be traced back to the first Rome World Food Conference held in 1977.

The United Kingdom-based Hunger Project states that 925 million people are living under extreme hunger and poverty conditions around the world. Nearly 25 000 people die every day due to hunger worldwide.

The United Nations launched the World Food Programme in 1961 in order to institute mechanisms of dealing with the phenomenon. It has offices in 80 countries and provides food, on average, to 90 million people per year, 58 million of whom are children.

In South Africa, among other social challenges, the alarming unemployment rate, coupled HIV/AIDS-related deaths resulting in an increased number of orphans, mean that many people are plagued by hunger in the country. Statistics released in 2006/07, indicated that about 122 000 children out of 18.2 million children live in child-headed households.

The South African Department of Social Development regards the child-headed household issue as a high priority area. Social security grants, though minimal, provide much needed relief to the affected. The social security budget is increased annually and is expected to be in the range of R129 billion by 2015.

Poverty worse now, than under apartheid

A paper presented by Jeremy Seekings, a delegate at the second ‘After Apartheid Conference' held in the US in 2007, stated that, "..despite steady economic growth (in South Africa), income inequality has probably grown, life expectancy has declined. The proximate causes are clear: persistent unemployment and low demand for unskilled labour, strong demand for skilled labour, an unequal education system, and a social safety net that is unusually widespread but nonetheless has large holes. Unfortunately, there is little sign of the political conditions changing to push the state towards the promotion of a more pro-poor pattern of economic growth."

The 2012/13 budget presented in February this year indicated that, over the next three years, 16.7 million will be dependent on social grants, which accounts for roughly 30% of the population. The number has increased from 2.5 million in 1998, and even lower in previous years, dating back to the apartheid era.