Hunger and food insecurity are serious issues in South Africa. Approximately 11 percent of the population (about 6.5 million people) struggle with hunger. The lack of access to food is not a new problem. However, South Africa and many other countries have seen an increase in food insecurity due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Operation Hunger is one of numerous charities that are working towards building a more food secure South Africa. This organization has been striving to end malnutrition in South Africa for over four decades. Let’s take a deeper look at the various programs Operation Hunger is utilizing to fight South African food insecurity.
Phases of Community Support
Operation Hunger approaches each of its projects through five phases:
Phase 1 is the assessment phase. It is spent evaluating the physical health and malnutrition challenges and needs present in each community. The assessment is intended to facilitate development of a plan for addressing the community’s unique needs and challenges.
Phase 2 is the relief phase. This is based on the findings of the assessment phase. During phase 2, Operation Hunger develops a relief plan based on these findings, the environment, available resources, and the community that will be served. Plans may include soup kitchens, food parcels, and household food distributions.
Phase 3 is the projects phase. Specific solutions are implemented to address the root causes of food insecurity and malnutrition. Data from the assessment phase are analyzed to determine what types of resources, opportunities, and skills will be useful for serving each unique community.
Phase 4 is the education phase. These programs may include training in skills, basic hygiene, nutrition education, and wellness training (i.e., how to cope with poverty). The education program begins with the start of a project and continues throughout the project’s implementation.
Phase 5 is the sustainability phase. Each project is designed based on the principles of sustainable development. This includes sustaining the health of both the community and the environment. Project participants are encouraged to make their own decisions and have autonomy over their own projects.
Operation Hunger has worked to support garden projects throughout South Africa, including a community vegetable garden project at Zwelethemba in Worcester and 20 home gardens in the Spandau and Green Park sections of Cape Town. About 60 families worked together with Operation Hunger to build these gardens, and approximately 360 South Africans have benefitted from them.
The organization is currently working on a vegetable garden and rainwater harvesting project in the Kannaland Municipal section of Calitzdorp. About 15 families are involved with this income-generating project, which benefits approximately 300 local people.
Operation Hunger administers a number other garden projects. The Tshabadimaketse Garden Project in Limpopo is tended by 20 people and the project benefits approximately 140 people through fresh vegetables and income. The Kodumela Garden Project involves 12 locals who grow tomatoes, selling over 100 each day. The Newlands Vegetable Garden Project, located in Eastern Cape, provided 100 locals with garden training and water rollers and established 100 home gardens.
Nutrition and Feeding Projects
Operation Hunger’s nutrition and feeding projects are dedicated to serving the most vulnerable and difficult-to-reach communities in South Africa. These projects focus on communities in Western Cape, Port Elizabeth, and surrounding communities like Northern Cape, North West, Gauteng, Limpopo, KwaZulu Natal, and Mpumalanga. Operation Hunger has established 24 feeding programs that provide a nourishing meal to 2,400 vulnerable residents each day.
These nutrition projects focus on three main goals. First, fostering awareness in the management of malnutrition and infectious diseases like tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. Second, helping communities improve their income management through self-help initiatives. Third, education about healthy eating habits.
Clean, drinkable water access and food security go hand in hand. Operation Hunger is working to improve access to clean water in South Africa through an ongoing initiative that provides 90-liter Hippo Water Rollers. These rollers can be easily transported to and from water sources like boreholes and community taps. They are designed in a way that allows one person to move up to 90 liters of clean water from the source to a household, without the risk of spillage or contamination.
Communities often struggle with sustainability due to factors that are not directly related to hunger. Examples include HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, the loss of family and friends to these illnesses, and crime. Operation Hunger strives to address these problems through wellness projects designed to motivate communities and reduce stress.
People who are living in poverty lack the resources to seek counseling for stress, trauma, depression, and other mental health issues that may arise from—and be exacerbated by—living in poverty. Operation Hunger has introduced wellness practices to these communities, which help the impoverished cope with stress in healthy ways, rather than through alcohol or drugs.