Drivers of socioeconomic inequalities of child hunger during COVID-19 in South Africa: evidence from NIDS-CRAM Waves 1–5

Background Child hunger has long-term and short-term consequences, as starving children are at risk of many forms of malnutrition, including wasting, stunting, obesity and micronutrient deficiencies. The purpose of this paper is to show that the child hunger and socio-economic inequality in South Africa increased during her COVID-19 pandemic due to various lockdown regulations that have affected the economic status of the population. Methods This paper uses the National Income Dynamics Study-Coronavirus Rapid Mobile Survey (NIDS-CRAM WAVES 1–5) collected in South Africa during the intense COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 to assess the socioeconomic impacts of child hunger rated inequalities. First, child hunger was determined by a composite index calculated by the authors. Descriptive statistics were then shown for the investigated variables in a multiple logistic regression model to identify significant risk factors of child hunger. Additionally, the decomposable Erreygers' concentration index was used to measure socioeconomic inequalities on child hunger in South Africa during the Covid-19 pandemic. Results The overall burden of child hunger rates varied among the five waves (1–5). With proportions of adult respondents indicated that a child had gone hungry in the past 7 days: wave 1 (19.00%), wave 2 (13.76%), wave 3 (18.60%), wave 4 (15, 68%), wave 5 (15.30%). Child hunger burden was highest in the first wave and lowest in the second wave. The hunger burden was highest among children living in urban areas than among children living in rural areas. Access to electricity, access to water, respondent education, respondent gender, household size, and respondent age were significant determinants of adult reported child hunger. All the concentrated indices of the adult reported child hunger across households were negative in waves 1–5, suggesting that children from poor households were hungry. The intensity of the pro-poor inequalities also increased during the study period. To better understand what drove socioeconomic inequalites, in this study we analyzed the decomposed Erreygers Normalized Concentration Indices (ENCI). Across all five waves, results showed that race, socioeconomic status and type of housing were important factors in determining the burden of hunger among children in South Africa. Conclusion This study described the burden of adult reported child hunger and associated socioeconomic inequalities during the Covid-19 pandemic. The increasing prevalence of adult reported child hunger, especially among urban children, and the observed poverty inequality necessitate multisectoral pandemic shock interventions now and in the future, especially for urban households.