Malnutrition crisis: Rising food inflation hitting the poorest where it hurts

Issued by Bridget Masango MP – DA Shadow Minister of Social Development
23 Jul 2023 in News
  • Vulnerable South African households continue to suffer and struggle to put food on the table leading to malnutrition.
  • Rising food inflation has exacerbated this issue with research done by the University of Witswatersrand showing that one in five households in the country is food insecure.
  • The DA’s Social Development Policy proposes various solutions to address malnutrition.

The announcement by StatsSA on Wednesday of an 11.1% increase in food prices over the past year, comes on the heels of the revelation that severe acute malnutrition (SAM) in children younger than five has risen by 26% over the past five years. And earlier this year the Department of Health revealed in answer to a parliamentary question by the DA that 12 582 children aged 0 to 5 years have died in hospitals since 2013 due to moderate and severe acute malnutrition.

It is hardly a wonder that children are starving when South Africans cannot afford basic necessities. Inflation statistics released earlier this week, show that the price of bread increased by 15%, vegetables by 21.2%, and milk, eggs and cheese by 13.8%. The June Household Affordability index indicated that the price of 30 kg maize meal increased by 18% the past year, 5 kg samp now costs 16% more, while 5 kg carrots and 10 kg onions skyrocketed by 40% and 97% respectively.

With the average cost of a household food basket of R5 056,45 and the food poverty line of R663, it is no surprise that a study by the University of Witwatersrand published in January 2023, found that one in five South African households were food insecure.

The DA’s Social Development Policy proposes various solutions to address malnutrition. These include:

  1. Expand the basket of basic food items that are exempt from Value Added Tax (VAT). This is to see if there are any other food items that are not currently exempt, but could be considered for exemption. These would include protein food items, such as bone-in chicken, beef, tinned beans, margarine, peanut butter, and baby food. Other items would include flour, tea, coffee, and soup powder. The goal is to provide poor and low-income families with some relief by reducing the taxes they have to pay on essential food items.
  2. To increase the child support grant to align with the official food poverty line. This reflects a genuine commitment to uplifting struggling families and ensuring that no child goes to bed hungry.
  3. Include support for pregnant mothers through the child grant. By nurturing child nutrition from the very beginning, we aim to break the cycle of stunting and set children on a path to brighter prospects.

It is crucial that we understand an injury to one is an injury to all. Allowing the most vulnerable in society to suffer is not only immoral, it also creates a bleak future for everyone that calls South Africa home.