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South Africa still has a long way to go on the right to food

Updated: Oct 26, 2020

Brittany Kesselman's latest article in The Conversation on the right to food in South Africa

Fifty-four percent of South Africans are hungry or at risk of hunger. Hunger affects people’s health, as well as their ability to live full and productive lives. That’s why hunger represents a violation of their basic human rights – not only the right to food, but also the rights to dignity, health and education, since all of these are affected by hunger.

Hunger, malnutrition and related illnesses are not evenly spread. There are significant race, class and gender differences. For example, black South Africans are 22 times more likely to be food insecure compared with white South Africans. Food insecurity is defined as not having physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food that meets dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.

This unequal distribution indicates a situation of severe food injustice in South Africa. Yet from my research with urban farmers it’s clear that people do not know of the right to food, and don’t see unequal access to nutritious food as an injustice. As a result, questions of hunger are largely absent in South African politics. While there are frequent protests around access to jobs, education, housing, water and electricity, we rarely, if ever, see protests about access to food.

There are international examples of governments taking their obligations seriously with regard to the right to food. In the city of Belo Horizonte, Brazil, for example, the government has rolled out numerous food and nutrition security programmes to combat hunger. In India, activists used litigation to hold the government accountable, leading to the enactment of the National Food Security Act in 2013, and various anti-hunger programmes such as school meals, subsidised grain distribution and assistance to pregnant women.

South Africans could learn from these examples, and do more. Read the full article here

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