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By Nicholas Zaal

Digital Journalist

Hunger crisis: SAHRC urges state of disaster in Eastern Cape [VIDEO]

The Human Rights Commission said it would consider legal action if government's "lack of political will" in combatting poverty and hunger continues.

The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has called for a state of disaster to be declared and urgent action to be taken to resolve a hunger crisis in the Eastern Cape.

If the recommendations it presented to government are not applied, the commission said it would consider taking the government on in court.

A Constitutional right

Section 27 of South Africa’s Constitution states that every citizen is entitled to sufficient food and water. Furthermore, the Constitution imposes a constitutional duty on the state to enact legislative and other measures to progressively realise the right to sufficient food by taking reasonable steps to ensure its full enjoyment.

While this right is progressively realised for all citizens, it is an absolute right for children to have access to basic nutrition, as outlined in Section 28(1)(c) of the Constitution.

A staggering 27% of children in South Africa have stunted growth due to malnutrition and 61% of children under the age of five have iron deficiency.

On Thursday, SAHRC chairperson Chris Nissen discussed the commission’s findings during an investigation in the Eastern Cape with Newzroom Afrika.

“There is hardcore poverty in our country and we cannot and must not allow that,” the SAHRC chairperson added, saying there is “a lack of political will to address the issues of poverty”.

He bemoaned the state of townships where there is no provision of water.

‘Hardcore poverty’ needs decisive solutions

Nissen discussed the commission’s findings during an investigation in the Eastern Cape.

“In the Eastern Cape, there was a mother who killed her children because she could not afford [to support them]. There are people that mix mud with maize in order to feed their children,” said Nissen.

“There are other provinces as well where [hunger] is prevalent. It is of great concern for us after 30 years of democracy that we still have these kinds of things happening,” he said.

Nissen said the commission had recommended the Eastern Cape government look into the hunger crisis and find sustainable development programmes that would keep people from dying in poverty.

The provincial government has allocated R60 million to support vulnerable households and fight severe malnourishment. However, Nissen said this is not enough and government has also proven slow to act.

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Holding government accountable

“Whilst immediate assistance is needed in order for us to alleviate poverty, we need a sustainable programme of development that comes from agriculture, job creation, the extended public works programme etc. so that people cannot just be dependent on handouts but we meaningfully improve the conditions,” he said.

Nissen said the commission would hold government accountable for not implementing sustainable policies to alleviate poverty.

Watch Nissen’s interview below:

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Imbizo on hunger

The commission hosted an imbizo in East London on Tuesday.

Themed Nourishing Futures: Collaborative Strategies for Sustainable Development, the event saw stakeholders from academia, government, development agencies, international bodies, the retail sector, financing sector, research bodies, various institutes, business chambers, and grassroots role players such as irrigation schemes and subsistence farmers connect.

They aimed to foster partnerships, share best practices, identify opportunities for joint initiatives and outline a roadmap towards minimising hunger and tackling hunger collectively.

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