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Stellenbosch Working Paper Series No. WP22/2020
Publication date: December 2020
Authors: Gabrielle Wills, Servaas van der Berg, Leila Patel, and Bokang Mpeta


In response to the COVID-19 crisis, and the anticipated socio-economic impacts of a hard lockdown, the South African government has leveraged three channels of social protection to protect livelihoods: social insurance, a social assistance programme of grants and localised social relief efforts. Using a mixed methods approach, this policy paper highlights that while the response from government and the social sector has been commendable, large groups of households are experiencing tremendous hardship as a direct consequence of the lockdown. New evidence from a telephonic survey suggests that 2 of every 5 adults reported that their household lost its main source of income since lockdown started in South Africa on the 27th of March 2020. This has had devastating consequences for food insecurity and household hunger. Of interviewed adults, 47% reported that their household ran out of money to buy food in April. Between May and June 2020, 21% reported that someone in the household went hungry in the last 7 days and 15% reported that a child went hungry in the last 7 days. To stave off mass, chronic hunger we simply cannot let up on the support being provided to households through all three channels of social protection. Failure to do so could deepen an emerging humanitarian crisis, hamper economic recovery, and threaten socio-political stability.

JEL Classification:
I32, I38

poverty, transfers, welfare policy, social protection, COVID-19

(originally written July 2020)