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What are the big issues SA faces and how can I help?

While South Africa is a beautiful country full of opportunity and possibility, it is faced with many challenges. These issues cannot be dealt with by government - all South Africans need to use their voices, skills and energy to tackle these issues and make a better country.




Nearly 40% of families in South Africa live in extreme poverty.

People who are poor find it hard to participate in the economy or become active citizens because they are too busy thinking about their daily survival.


Poverty also leads to other social ills such as:

  • HIV/Aids - people have unprotected sex with multiple partners in exchange for money
  • Substance abuse - people become addicted to alcohol or drugs as a means of coping with their circumstances
  • Domestic violence - people harm those they are meant to love because of low self-esteem.

Approximately half of all 20-24 year olds in South Africa do not have jobs. SA's youth leave school with little chance of finding employment. And we all know that unemployment leads to poverty.

How can I help?

Nearly half of all schools in South Africa don't have the right resources, equipment and structures, such as libraries, laboratories, enough desks and chairs and, sometimes, even classrooms.

In addition, many children come to school hungry or without any lunch, making it impossible for them to truly concentrate on what is being taught.

Others have to walk or travel long distances and often unsafe routes to get to school. Still others don't have the support and stimulation they need at home to do homework or study.

Less than 30% of children who start school finish with a Matriculation certificate. A lack of education leads to unemployment which leads to poverty.

How can I help?

Crime levels in South Africa are still too high. Violent crimes (when people are killed, raped or assaulted) are still very common.

Recent statistics have shown that crime has steadily decreased from previous years. However, the average South African citizen does not feel safe in their homes, on the road or even in public spaces.

There is almost no South African that has not been affected directly or indirectly by crime.

Many crimes are a result of unemployment and poverty with criminals often getting paid relatively small amounts of money for the results of hijackings and robbery.

How can I help?

Many South Africans still do not have access to adequate health services.

Especially in rural areas, entire communities have to walk several kilometres to their nearest clinic.

The health situation is made worse by high HIV infections and thousands of people living with AIDS. Many HIV positive people also have TB.

In fact South Africa has one of the highest TB infection rates in the world.

For more information on HIV/Aids visit The Aids Foundation or Soul City.

How can I help?

A 'recession' can be described as a period of general slowdown in economic activity.

During a recession, economic indicators such as investment and government spending, household income, business profits, tourism and inflation decline. At the same time, unemployment, company losses and bankruptcies increase.

Research shows that low-skilled, low-educated workers and the young are most vulnerable to unemployment in a recession (Market Oracle John Mauldin, Feb 2009 "US in Recession Rising Unemployment"). This is cause for concern in a developing country such as South Africa.

The cause of the current global recession was the financial crisis which was the result of irresponsible lending by banks predominantly in the USA and Europe. The crisis is regarded as the most severe recession since the Great Depression in the 1920s - 1940s, the longest, deepest and most widespread depression of the 20th century.

How can I help?

Food security has been described as "physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food by all South Africans at all times to meet their dietary and food preferences for an active and healthy life" (National Development Agency, 2002).

Two key issues affecting food security in South Africa are:

  • Food prices - due to the high levels of unemployment around 14 million people are vulnerable to food security as a result of poverty.
  • Food access and distribution - although South Africa is a producer of food, access to this food is difficult.
How can I help?

Racism is when someone believes that their race is better than another race. This belief leads them to mistreat people of another race.

Racism can be direct: when someone is treated unfairly based on their race by another person. Or indirectly: when there are rules that lead to a person of a certain race being treated unfairly.

Racist behaviour may include:

  • Physical assault and harassment
  • Verbal abuse, threats, using bad language against someone, ridicule, stereotyped comments
  • Racist propaganda e.g. symbols, signs, graffiti
  • Encouraging others to behave in a racist manner
  • Refusing to cooperate with other people because of their colour, ethnicity, religion or language
How can I help? What is xenophobia?

In 2008, "xenophobia" became a common word in South Africa when hundreds of African immigrants were displaced from their homes by angry South African mobs.

An immigrant is a person who lives in South Africa but is not a South African citizen.

Xenophobia is an unhealthy fear of foreigners. Many South Africans feel that immigrants deliberately come into South Africa to take their jobs and homes leaving South Africans poorer. However, many of these immigrants are also escaping poverty in their own home countries. Others contribute various skills to our local economy.

While some communities have embraced foreigners, others see them as people who are destroying the future of South Africa. We need to learn to accept the situations in our communities and deal with our fear by communicating with each other, rather than acting out in violence.

How can I help? What is racism?

Here are some scary facts about the water situation across the globe:

  1. More than 1 billion people do not have access to safe drinking water.
  2. More than 50% of the world's wetlands - the earth's natural filter - have been lost.
  3. 1 in 3 people lack access to adequate sanitation.
  4. Water covers most of the planet, but only 3% of that is fresh water. Of that 3% only 1% of all water on earth is available for humans to use.

What does this mean for South Africa? Well, as the population continues to grow, the demand for water increases. And as more water gets used, more gets polluted. Although SA has the 3rd best drinking water in the world, there has been a general deterioration in quality over the past few years.

How can I help?

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