'37% of South African households can't afford adequate meals'

A University of Pretoria professor says at least 37% of SA households live below the poverty line.

FILE: Research shows that 26 percent of malnourished children will experience developmental issues such as restricted growth. Picture: Thomas Holder/EWN.

CAPE TOWN - A University of Pretoria professor says at least 37 percent of South African households live below the poverty line and cannot afford adequate meals.

In a parliamentary discussion today on food security, Professor Sheryl Hendricks says poverty, malnutrition and unemployment remain among top drivers of food insecurity.

Hendricks says despite 60 national programmes aimed at improving food security, a lack of co-ordinated action results in minimal impact for struggling communities.

Hendricks adds the effect of poor nutrition among children is the biggest concern.

She says her research shows that 26 percent of malnourished children will experience developmental issues such as restricted growth.

Her study also points to an alarming rise in childhood obesity.

"The same children who are under nourished in early childhood, become overweight."

Hendricks concedes while the current drought may have far-reaching effects on food security, an increase in agricultural programmes and social services will go a long way to alleviating pressure on needy communities.