Covid-19: SA facing a hunger crisis as millions face worsening economic conditions

People at the Ipelegeng Community Center received food parcels donated by the ambassador of China to South Africa, in partnership with the Soweto Youth League last month.
People at the Ipelegeng Community Center received food parcels donated by the ambassador of China to South Africa, in partnership with the Soweto Youth League last month.
Sharon Seretlo, Gallo Images
  • The social development department said it needed around R860 million for food parcels that will be distributed over the next three months.
  • The department's acting director-general has told Parliament while more than five million people have been fed, more still needed to be done.
  • So far, just more than 1.2 million food parcels have been delivered.

South Africa is on the brink of a humanitarian crisis.

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, 23.8% of the population, about 14 million people, faced extreme hunger and the figure was expected to soar to catastrophic levels.

Officials from the Department of Social Development presented these figures to Parliament's Portfolio Committee on Social Development during a hybrid sitting on Friday.

READ | SA faced with double storm of Covid-19 and hunger, warns Zulu

The department's acting director-general Linton Mchunu said due to Covid-19 the food distribution strategy was altered.

"Since the outbreak of Covid-19 more than five million people have been fed by the department in partnership with various organisations as well as other ordinary citizens. Though this is not enough, it has certainly gone a long way in alleviating the unforeseen devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic," he said in his presentation.

"Statistics SA projects the economic impact to leave about 50% of the population at risk of being food insecure. So more still needs to be done."

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He also said the department needs millions more to deliver food parcels for the next three months.

"The gap is still very much large and we are doing our best, as government, and ourselves we are not going to make it alone. It's not possible. We need a level of partnership between the private sector and civil society to be able to meet this great need. We still require a whole lot of money. What we require is R868 million that is just for a period of three months," he said.

READ | Five million people have received R350 Covid-19 grant, so far - Lindiwe Zulu

The department had so far delivered 1 210 968 food parcels and had reached an estimated 6 054 840 people.

Just more than R540 million had been spent on the food parcels. To date, R383 million had been spent in Gauteng, R41 million in Mpumalanga, R39 million in Limpopo and R40 444 025 in the Free State.

Delivering an executive statement to Parliament on Thursday, Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu revealed that so far five million people have been paid the R350 special Covid-19 relief grant.

Mchunu said as South Africa faced the peak of Covid-19, the challenges of an economic crisis were being felt mainly by the poor and vulnerable.

READ HERE | Furious MPs grill Lindiwe Zulu over food parcels, social grants

"The instability of Covid-19 worsens starvation, unemployment and poverty [and] has dire ramifications in reversing some important gains recorded in addressing the past injustices. Covid-19 has brought a spotlight to structural inequalities and deep-rooted social injustices. This has reignited and propelled the sector to move with urgency to finalise its processes of pro-poor social protection agenda to address underdevelopment and abject poverty," he said.

Mchunu said the Covid-19 pandemic required the strengthening of the state's capacity and an end to inefficient service delivery.

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