Government urged to keep supplying food parcels as 'pandemic fatigue' grows

Hunger is now one of SA's most urgent issues, warns new study

28 October 2020 - 17:17
Residents of Iterileng informal settlement, in Pretoria, queue to collect food parcels in May. Organisers said the line stretched for 3km and 11,000 parcels were distributed.
Residents of Iterileng informal settlement, in Pretoria, queue to collect food parcels in May. Organisers said the line stretched for 3km and 11,000 parcels were distributed.
Image: Sebabatso Mosamo / Sunday Times
Seventy percent of adults polled in a survey say the government should continue to provide food parcels to hungry people in the wake of the coronavirus lockdown.
 
The Covid-19 survey, which was carried out by the University of Johannesburg (UJ) and the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) between July and September, found that hunger had become one of SA's most pressing issues under lockdown, with as many as four out of 10 adults going to bed hungry every day.
Four out of 10 adults are going to bed hungry.
UJ-HSRC Covid-19 Democracy Survey

About 69% of the respondents supported an increase in the value of social grants as well as retaining the R350 Covid relief grant.

The findings, which come from the second round of UJ/HSRC's Covid-19 survey, polled 7,966 respondents.

Findings were weighted to match Statistics SA data on race, education and age, and could be regarded as broadly representative of the population at large, according to the survey's summary.  

“The findings of the survey show that there is strong public support for policy interventions that would assist the most vulnerable in our society,” said Prof Carin Runciman, UJ associate professor at the Centre for Social Change.

“This includes not only immediate measures, such as providing food parcels or the R350 social relief of distress grant, but also long-term measures, such as the introduction of a basic income grant, which could do much to alleviate poverty and inequality in our society.”

The survey revealed some disturbing trends, such as that four out of 10 South Africans believe the coronavirus threat is exaggerated — up from a third earlier in the lockdown — while one in three adults do not wear a mask when leaving their homes.

People were also losing their fear of contracting Covid-19. While feelings of fear remained consistently high from April through July, ranging between 44% and 47%, this fell to 31% during August and early September, the summary said.

“These findings illustrate, among other things, that there is a growing pandemic fatigue,” said Runciman.

“The greater number of people who do not comply with health measures, such as wearing masks in public, the greater the likelihood of a second wave in infections, as is now occurring in Europe and the US.

“There is a need for strong and continued public health messaging that the threat posed from the virus is not over even though we are now at a lower alert level.”

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