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The lockdown has pulverised South Africa’s brittle economy, causing a hunger epidemic of unprecedented scale in the Continent’s breadbasket.

As the days, weeks and months have passed, there’s no clear strategy to alleviate the carnage – the chasm between the rich and poor keeps on widening.

One of the most tragic effects of the lockdown has been the increase in child hunger – with effects that may last for a lifetime.

Researchers are finding that parents are trying desperately to – when they can - shield their children from hunger by going hungry themselves.

Others are feeding their children wild plants to survive.

“My children will tell you the taste of every plant in this area, as for the last three months I have been feeding them these plants,” a desperate mother told Gift of the Givers.

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“It is the worst amount of hunger in the 28 years of the Gift of the Givers,” says the NGO’s Dr Imtiaz Sooliman.

“The public floods us with calls asking for help,” he said.

“People cry over the phone.”

“Our economy cannot sustain life,” says Professor Ruth Hall from the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies at the University of the Western Cape.

“It cannot ensure that people have access to food.”

Read: Covid-19: Children eat wild plants to survive as hunger explodes – GroundUp

Is the government underestimating the plight of hungry children during this pandemic?

Kieno Kammies interviewed journalist Mandy Wiener.

“Government is failing its hungry children spectacularly,” says Wiener.

“A more undignified scenario than starvation of a child is unimaginable.

“Hungry children cannot learn; they cannot advance, and the repercussions are ongoing and long term.”

Read: The desperate hunger of children should be the barometer of a failing government - Mandy Wiener

Children are eating wild plants to survive! … Half of all households ran out of money to buy food in April… Adults are shielding children from hunger. So many children are perpetually hungry…

Mandy Wiener, presenter - The Midday Report

It’s astonishing that the government opposed the court action [to force them to feed children] … That the judge has to order the Minister to implement this [feeding] program…

Mandy Wiener, presenter - The Midday Report

You can’t discuss whether or not schools will be shut down… without discussing how children will be neglected at the same time…

Mandy Wiener, presenter - The Midday Report

Children are, literally, starving. That should be the barometer [by which to measure the government] … We are fortunate in South Africa that we have an active civil society. When there’s a leadership vacuum, it forces the government to lead… Benevolent South Africans making sure that other people are fed.

Mandy Wiener, presenter - The Midday Report

It’s real… We need to appreciate how bad the situation is…

Mandy Wiener, presenter - The Midday Report

Listen to the interview in the audio below.

This article first appeared on CapeTalk : 'In South Africa right now children are starving, eating wild plants to survive'

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