In September 2021, Statistics SA released their Inflation-adjusted National Poverty Lines report and found that a person in South Africa needs at least R624 per month just to buy enough food to survive.
To buy enough food to survive and to buy non-food necessities (the upper-bound poverty line), the report states that an individual needs R1335 per month.
Pre-Covid, people somehow survived on a minimum of R547 per month, but the pandemic has made things worse for the average South African. Food inflation has risen to 6.3%, the highest since 2017.
In addition, South Africa’s latest figures, released before Covid-19, showed that almost half of the population over the age of 18 falls below the upper-bound poverty line. This number may be a lot higher now, post-Covid, as 2020 forecasts were that the pandemic was likely to push an additional one million people into poverty, widening the inequality gap even further.
An Oxfam survey that interviewed economists from 79 countries found that the world’s poorest people were likely to take more than ten years to recover to pre-pandemic levels if governments don’t act now to reduce inequalities.
Another study, by the World Bank, showed that South Africa’s ‘inequality of opportunity’ rating (which measures access to quality basic services such as education and healthcare) is higher than that of any other country. Most South Africans earn only enough to buy food and a few necessities and have nothing left over to access services such as quality education and quality healthcare – both of which have been negatively affected by the pandemic. The recent looting and unrest only made things worse. Those who were barely coping have been pushed to breaking point, so that the perpetual cycle of poverty for many shows little signs of easing.
Afrika Tikkun, one of South Africa’s leading NGOs, has found a way to ensure that more people have access to quality basic services at a fraction of the cost that they would normally be required to pay. For example, Afrika Tikkun’s Educational and Primary Healthcare Programmes, offered at marginal costs in comparison to the quality of service, make it accessible to poor families who are excluded from these services offered by the private sector.
The Primary Healthcare Programme is one of several that supports Afrika Tikkun’s overarching Cradle-to-Career 360° holistic developmental model. The programme gives underprivileged families and their children access to quality healthcare services such as immunisations, growth monitoring and physical education, along with early treatment for childhood illnesses. In addition, it provides integrated home-based care, adherence support for HIV/Aids and tuberculosis, health promotion, palliative care, and a chronic dispensary unit for the distribution of medication for family members. These services, offered swiftly and efficiently, make a huge difference to families who would otherwise be queuing at government institutions to receive the barest minimum.
The Primary Healthcare programme is only one strand of their multi-faceted suite of services to poor and vulnerable communities in support of their ‘Cradle-to-Career’ objective.
‘As a company, Afrika Tikkun strives to stay relevant,’ says Alef Meulenberg, the CEO. ‘We adapt quickly so that we can respond to community and societal needs, for example, by providing Covid-19 tests and vaccines through our clinics.’ This helps Afrika Tikkun to meet the communities’ immediate and long-term needs. ‘By doing so, we are able to make a difference in underprivileged communities, who are often excluded from the economy and basic services.’
As a result, Afrika Tikkun is creating consumers from non-consumers, narrowing the wide inequality gap by providing much-needed access to essential and high-quality services. Through access to these services, poverty-stricken communities stand a chance of breaking the cycle of poverty.
‘In 2022, we want to scale our operations and extend them countrywide,’ says Meulenberg.
What this means is a major push to decentralise their Cradle-to-Career programme along with its support programmes, such as Primary Healthcare. Partnerships with other organisations will be key.
‘We will form more partnerships with local, community-based organisations in order to implement our programmes and services. Partners will have access to our material; we’ll provide training and we’ll give them ongoing support. Our aim is to ensure that more and more people benefit.’
Afrika Tikkun’s decentralised model is an example of the collaboration and sharing that is so needed in the CSI space today. By opening up their expertise and making it available to others, with targeted support, they will at least double the impact of their work, reaching more people who desperately need access to quality essential services.