Citing findings of the recent survey conducted between 2021 and 2022, President Cyril Ramaphosa said despite the growth in the number of people receiving social grants, food security and household and child hunger remain stubbornly high.
“Therefore, our interventions to support vulnerable children must be implemented alongside actions to drive inclusive economic growth, investment and job creation, which this administration has taken as a top priority,” said the President.
He was responding to questions for oral reply in the National Assembly on Thursday.
The questions posed to the First Citizen by parties represented in Parliament ranged from hunger and malnutrition experienced by destitute children, work done to bring units at Medupi and Kusile power stations onto the national power grid, the report of the State Capture Commission to the Anti-Gang Unit.
President Ramaphosa acknowledged that nutrition is one of the country’s impediments to the well-being of the people and the development of society.
According to data, 27% of children under the age of five in South Africa are stunted, a consequence of severe and long-lasting malnutrition in which a child fails to achieve the expected height for his or her age.
He believed this was a problem the country needed to tackle and that the fight against child poverty is at the top of his agenda.
“This is reflected in several social protection interventions that the government has embarked upon to ensure that every child has access to adequate nutrition, decent housing, to free healthcare to education and also childcare.”
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Over the years, government has increased the Child Support Grant (CSG) to protect the poor and vulnerable children over the years. Today, over 13 million children have access to CSG, compared to 12.5 million in 2018.
In addition, he said various research findings including those conducted by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and International Labour Organisation (ILO) have confirmed that the CSG reduces poverty and vulnerability among children.
Meanwhile, the Social Assistance Programme was also a government intervention such as the School Nutrition Programme and Community Nutrition and Development Centres that provide healthy meals to vulnerable households.
According to the President, 9.6 million children receive free meals at schools across the country, an increase from 9.1 million in 2018.
In addition, government has embarked on the 1000 Days campaign to improve the nutrition of pregnant mothers and children during the first 1000 days of life to help ensure the babies have the best start in life and reach their full potential.
The initiative includes nutrition, education and awareness campaigns.
He announced that the Department of Social Development is currently working on a maternal support policy to introduce a state social assistance provision for vulnerable expectant moms. “Once the policy is finalised, it will be presented for approval by the relevant structures.”
He said the country was dealing with poverty, inequality and unemployment, which play a huge role in worsening hunger and malnutrition.