October 16, 2023: Oxfam South Africa has learnt from its programmatic and advocacy work with communities in South Africa and the SADC that the pandemic and subsequent austerity measures have worsened inequality and food insecurity, catalysing an urgent need for concerted efforts to address the crisis.
The pandemic has exacerbated extreme inequality and has pushed millions of people into abject poverty.
As many as 35.5 million people in SADC countries lost their jobs in 2020 due to the pandemic, according to 2022 Crisis of Extreme Inequality in SADC: Fighting austerity and the pandemic report from Oxfam.
The report notes, that while most SADC citizens have suffered from the pandemic and its effects, the story is different for the region’s wealthiest people. The six wealthiest men in SADC – four in South Africa and one each in Tanzania and Zimbabwe – saw their wealth expand from $18.1 billion to $27.7 billion during the two years of the pandemic, a 42 percent increase in real terms.
High and pervasive levels of poverty in the region continue to be reinforced by low economic growth rates, high level of unemployment, rising inequality, increasing frequency and intensity of global economic shocks on African economies, weak social protection systems and poor provision of basic services, including health, water, hygiene, and sanitation.
Furthermore, the effects of climate change also pose irreversible effects on sustainable livelihoods and food security in the region.
As the world gears up to recognize World Food Day on 16 October 2023, an estimated 58 million people in South Africa and the region are facing food insecurity, while almost 18.6 million children are stunted- representing a third of stunted children in Africa. And the prevalence of anemia (iron deficiency) in women of reproductive age in the region is at levels of public health concern.
“Hunger is not about charity; it is about social justice,” says Ms. Lebogang Ramafoko, Executive Director of Oxfam South Africa.
“Inequality, climate change, and hunger are all inextricably linked. Women, girls, and other vulnerable groups are especially hard hit. The most vulnerable people, including women and those already facing poverty, are taking the brunt of inequality, austerity, and the climate crisis.”
Through our partnerships with small-holder farmers in the Eastern Cape, Oxfam South Africa works to create sustainable and meaningful livelihoods for women at the frontline of the triple crises of inequality, poverty and hunger. Through these partnerships, Oxfam has supported farmers with seeds, supported the establishment of community gardens, created avenues for their produce to reach market, delivering 3 tonnes of fresh produce to market, and disbursed over R300 000 in revenue from the produce to participating farmers.
We know that change is possible. And that the crisis of food insecurity and inequality can be addressed.
On World Food Day, Oxfam calls on President Ramaphosa to urgently prioritise the crisis of hunger and inequality.
“The poor face starvation, while the rich get richer. The current crisis is an opportune time to seriously consider a wealth tax for the richest 1% of South Africans and the introduction of a basic income grant. Further austerity measures are likely to exacerbate the current hunger crisis in the region,” adds Ms Ramafoko.
Content Source: OXFAM