The ‘No Hunger Games’ held a few days ago in Johannesburg drew attention to the fact that too many South African children are going hungry.
It encompassed a series of events – a ‘Race Against Hunger’, a javelin event dubbed ‘Hitting the Target to End Malnutrition’ and a discus ‘Turnaround to Stop Children Dying.’
Ingenious names, and great fun!
People who came to the event learnt that South Africa has dropped 24 places in Save the Children’s new Child Development Index, which measures child health, education and nutrition across the globe.
The slip in ranking is being attributed to slow developmental progress in the country and other countries having done more.
Twelve of South Africa’s eighteen million children live in poverty. In this day and age, that’s an unbelievable, outrageous figure.
Can a country really be ‘free’ when its children are still enslaved by the most basic of needs – hunger?
South Africa still struggles against malnutrition – one in four children is stunted or too short for their age.
The percentage of underweight children stands at about 9% – a figure that hasn’t progressed in about a decade.
The rate of exclusive breastfeeding up to six months, which is a basic but vital way to give children a good nutritional start in life, is just 8%! That’s one of the lowest in the world – even neighbouring Swaziland is 44%.
The whole thing about economic development, and you certainly see it as you walk around Gauteng or Cape Town, is that it brings great benefit to certain sectors of society.
Time to invest in children
South Africa is a nation blighted by several problems, not least AIDS. One in ten people are infected by HIV and there are two million AIDS orphans.
Progress won’t happen, I think, until the country makes systematic investments in its children.
Save the Children works in Limpopo and the Free State by establishing children’s committees to ensure that children have a voice in issues that affect them.
At the ‘No Hunger Games’ I heard children talk about how they are working with other children in the region to ensure that they can solve their own problems. Like getting a regular, nutrititious meal even when this isn’t something their families can provide.
A child from QwaQwa reported that they had built a vegetable garden to “support learners struggling at home so they can have food to eat”. Amazing!
Particularly when you realise that the area has a high prevalence of HIV and AIDS. The story is a strong reminder to South Africans to take action, to free themselves from hunger and poverty.
“Ngosi Sikelele Africa! God Bless South Africa!” The children sang their national anthem at the end, and I, as usual, got goosebumps.