SAHRC commences inquiry into child malnutrition in Eastern Cape

The SAHRC reported that studies and statistics indicated that many children in the province live in abject poverty and as a result are malnourished.

A significant number of children across the Eastern Cape, who are living in abject poverty, are dying from Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) caused by hunger.

This is according to the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) in the Eastern Cape after they received complaints, coupled with various media reports, pertaining to the death of the children.

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The SAHRC reported that studies and statistics further indicated that many children in the province live in abject poverty and as a result are malnourished.

The commission was hosting a provincial inquiry into the Right to Food and Child Malnutrition that would run over four days.

The panel for this inquiry included Commissioners Angie Makwetla, Jonas Sibanyoni as well as the SAHRC Provincial Manager, Dr Eileen Carter.

Stakeholders that were to provide evidence under oath include the Department of Social Development, Treasury, the Auditor General, as well as the Health and Education departments within the province, in order to access distress relief.

UNICEF, Statistics South Africa (Statsaa), Accountability Now, the Children’s Institute as well as several other stakeholders were in attendance to appear before the commission to address this very important and pressing matter.

The first speaker, advocate Paul Hoffman, from Accountability Now, explained that children were guaranteed a right to basic nutrition under Section 28 of the South African Constitution.

He went on to tell that the malnutrition problems were as a result of the current adverse economic conditions in the country – where mothers were resorting to adding sand to food to give children the feeling of being full.  

Hoffman argued that the government was obligated to rework its budget to ensure that children were receiving proper nourishment.

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He also provided a possible solution: Hoffman said that 30% of the food produced in South Africa lands up in landfill sites in perfectly edible form.

“We cannot justify malnutrition with children growing up with stunted growth as a result of malnutrition, when 10 million tonnes of food a year is thrown away,” he said.

Hoffman said that this food destined for landfill sites needs to be rerouted to these starving communities. He suggested that government look to companies like SA breweries that are able to get their products to all areas of the country for logistic approaches.

Hoffman also said that relying on the state alone to solve the problem of malnutrition in the country was not probable.

He said that it is only with the help of the private sector that such strides have been made into combatting the issue of starvation and malnutrition in the country.

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