SA sees a sharp rise in abject hunger due to Covid-19

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As South Africa is in the tenth week of national lockdown to curb the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, the country has seen a sharp rise in poverty resulting in abject hunger. A growing number of citizens live from hand to mouth and depend on daily handouts to survive. Vulnerable children are further disenfranchised in this new unfortunate reality.

In a national address, President Cyril Ramaphosa said that the top priorities for the financial relief package are to combat the virus and relieving “hunger and social distress”.

MAMAS Alliance has responded to this urgent need across South Africa by providing food parcels through its partner NGOs.

One such successful collaboration has been with the HCI Foundation and the eMedia COVID-19 Relief Fund. To date 3141 parcels have been distributed, ensuring the food security of over 12,500 people for one month. The HCI Foundation is the vehicle for the social investment programme of investment holding company Hosken Consolidated Investments Limited.

According to Jamala Safari, CEO at HCI Foundation, “We are acutely aware of the increasing levels of hunger in many communities across the country whilst people wait for Government and other sources of assistance to roll out. It is for this reason we that have been working with a network of organisations across the country who we know and trust and who have local knowledge and experience to make sure that food parcels reach the families they are intended for.”

In the MAMAS Alliance network, the impact of these parcels has been life-saving across the 10 communities we focused on in the Northern part of South Africa, which is often far away from economic nodes. The parcels contain essentials such as maize meal, samp, sugar, split peas, soya mince, soup, porridge, cooking oil, laundry soap, etc. Families chosen to receive food parcels are pre-screened by the local NGOs, who have deep knowledge of specific community needs.

South Africa already has a staggering unemployment rate at 29 percent, as reported earlier this year. This figure has spiked significantly as a result of job losses of those working in casual employment and in the informal sector. This means that even larger numbers are now unable to provide for themselves and their families.

“Hunger relief is at the forefront of our efforts because the difference between ‘the haves’ and ‘the have-nots’ is extreme in the South Africa. This pandemic has only worsened it. The wealthy and the middle class can tap into savings to buy necessities, but there are many who have no income now, let alone reserves, to reach into to buy food. Corporate South Africa has a valuable role to play in crisis times like we are facing now. We need to help the children who are starving,” says Magali Malherbe, Managing Director for MAMAS Alliance.

While the lockdown may be working to flatten the curve of Covid-19 infection, it is undeniable that the immediate human cost is substantial.

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