SA women sacrifice healthy meals to feed men, children

A high percentage of South Africans living in poverty-stricken urban areas are food insecure and women often end up foregoing nutritious meals to feed the men and children in the household.

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This was according to Gareth Haysom from the African Centre for Cities’ Hungry City Partnership at the University of Cape Town. He was speaking about food insecurity in urban areas at an event organised by the RSA Group in Cape Town.

Studies showed that, on average, 77% of people living in poor urban areas in sub-Saharan Africa were food insecure, said Haysom.

In Cape Town about 80% of people living in poor areas faced food insecurity; in Johannesburg it was about 50%; in Maseru, Lusaka, Harare and Msunduzi more than 90% of those living in poor urban areas were food insecure.

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Food insecurity also affected people in rural areas – about 37% of people living in rural informal settlements experienced hunger, compared to 32% of people living in urban informal settlements, said Haysom.

In total, 28% of South Africans, across all rural and urban areas, were at risk of hunger and 26% experienced hunger.

Haysom highlighted some contradictions in the food system referring to a study which showed that over 50% of women and 30% of men in South African were obese.

The rate of obesity was higher in urban areas than in rural areas, he said.

Furthermore, girls living in urban informal areas had the highest prevalence of stunting.

One of the reasons for the high rate of obesity amongst women, said Haysom, was because women in poor households often sacrificed nutritious meals for men and children.

“The women end up eating a diet high in cheap carbohydrates and sugar instead of eating healthy balanced meals,” said Haysom.

He also said the number of people who experienced food insecurity in South Africa depended on other factors. For example, the highest rates of food insecurity were observed across the country in January, when school fees had to be paid. The rate also spiked during winter when poor households spent more of their income on gas and paraffin.