Last Updated: 2017-09-21
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JOHANNESBURG, Sept 21 (NNN-SABC) -- Data published by the United Nations show that the number of under-nourished people in the world is rising again and reached 815 million last year, up from 777 million in 2015.

After 1999, the new millennium heralded a period of improving nutrition and declining levels of hunger across the globe but recent updates published by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) suggest that this trend was reversed after 2015. The latest figures are, however, still lower than the 900 million chronically malnourished people of the year 2000.

Although the UN ascribes the recent increasing level of food insecurity to armed conflicts across the globe, South Africa, despite not being in a conflict situation, follows the trend of declining nutritional levels with the FAO figures showing that 2.5 million South Africans are undernourished, a significant increase from the 2.0 million of 2005.

The prevalence of undernourishment in South Africa is currently 4.6 per cent as opposed to 4.2 per cent in 2005. Despite the increase, South Africa is among the most food secure countries on the continent and only three countries -- Egypt, Morocco and Mali --have lower levels of under-nourishment on the continent.

Food insecurity is most pronounced in the Central African Republic (CAR) where almost 60 per cent of the population is malnourished.

Levels of malnutrition in South Africa's neighbours vary markedly. Almost half of all Zimbabweans (45 per cent) and Zambians (46 per cent) are malnourished. By comparison "only" 27 per cent of Mozambicans and 15 per cent of people in Lesotho are malnourished.

The FAO study emphasizes the most severe impact of malnutrition with approximately 1.7 million South African children under the age of five stunted and another one million children in this age group overweight, which is yet another sign of poor nutrition.

While the UN ascribes decreasing nutrition levels globally to conflict, this is not cause in South Africa, where the declining nutrition is probably caused by economic factors such as food inflation and unemployment. Figures from Statistics South Africa (StatsSA) indicate that each individual needs an income of almost 500 Rand (about 37.40 US dollars) a month to ensure that they get sufficient energy intake to sustain themselves.

However, the Pietermaritzburg Agency for Community Social Action (PACSA) estimates that in order to get a balanced diet (carbohydrates as well as proteins, etc.) each individual needs an income of approximately 611 Rand a month. The income of relatively few South African households is sufficient to meet this requirement. -- NNN-SABC