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South Africans are a generous people and the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic that has ravaged many countries across the world; infecting some 2.5-million people while killing almost 170 000 people and keeping millions away from their livelihoods, is showing exactly that.
Ever since the country was put under a national lockdown which began at midnight of 26 March 2020 when the call made for food donations to millions who are now unable to fend for themselves due to the lockdown, ordinary South Africans – from government, big corporates to tuck-shops and civil society – have come to the aid of the needy, elderly and sickly by pledging food and money to help with food parcels for desperate families.
Andy du Plessis, Managing Director at FoodForward South Africa, one of the largest food distribution charity organisations in South Africa reaching around 200 000 households has thanked South Africans for heeding the organisation’s call three weeks ago to donate money or food to the tune of R50 million.
“I would like to thank South Africans for responding (to the call). So far, we have raised R17-million as well as R25-million worth of food. We are now preparing to prepare food parcels to roughly 200 000 households nationally and we hope to get those to vulnerable communities in the next week of two,” du Plessis says.
We want to make sure that while we face this health crisis we avert a hunger crisis, du Plessis adds.
FoodForward SA works by recovering quality edible surplus food from the consumer goods supply chain and distributing it to community organisations that serve the poor. The distribution is done by vetted, registered beneficiary organisations (BOs) in communities. While there were 670 beneficiary organisations before the Coronavirus pandemic; FoodForward SA has now registered more than 1 000 BOs and is fast-tracking its plans to reach even more households during this time of need.
Reaching more vulnerable communities is also the goal of the Gauteng Province’s Social Development, the department with the mammoth task of providing a safety net to millions of residents in South Africa’s most populous province with some 15 million calling it home.
“We are pleased that we have reached over 20 000 families,” the department’s Director of Communications, Motsamai Motlhaolwa, says, “but, (we) are much alive to the fact that we still need to reach more people. We are ramping up our efforts to respond to demand and to reach more households.
The Gauteng Social Development Department has set aside R80-million for food parcels in its annual budget and, says Motlhaolwa, the Coronavirus food parcels came from those funds.
Despite the money set aside, the Gauteng province also worked with other stakeholders to ensure that its services reached the most vulnerable.
“There are number of social partners that work with government. They donate food, toiletries, PPE, sanitisers, etc. Some assist to raise funds which go to buying food that in turn is packaged and distributed to qualifying households. The South African National Zakah Fund (SANZAF) has raised around R5m to this effect. Last week alone on 15 April, the Acting MEC of Social Development, Panyaza Lesufi, received donations to the value of R2.5m-million in donations which came from companies such as Shell SA, MealSA, Colgate-Palmolive and Dursot,” says Mothlaolwa.
The department has called on families of the most vulnerable, (meaning the family is 100% unemployed, or a family the sickly at home, child headed households and gender based violence victims) to register their requests for food support through calling the GP toll-free hotline (0800 428 8364 / 0800 228 827), sending email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or texting a message (35023).
While there have been allegations of abuse of the food parcels distributed by the government since the Coronavirus lockdown began, the Gauteng Social Development Department has urged anyone with information of any wrongdoing to come forward so that those responsible could be brought to book.
Recent reports have fingered councillors who have allegedly stolen food parcels meant for the poor. In some municipalities food had to be recalled as there were concerns regarding quality.
FoodForwardSA, which is currently working the government during the lockdown in order to ensure that there are no duplication, says some of the challenges facing the government’s food parcel distribution could be solved through the usage of vetted beneficiary organisations and a stringent qualification criteria for those organisation who want to work in the food parcel distribution space.
The food distribution charity organisation says the Coronavirus pandemic has provided the country with an opportunity to prepare better for disasters of the magnitude.
“Maybe before this pandemic the perception of our organisation was just that we distribute food and people didn’t know that we have all the standards and due diligence processes in place to ensure that whoever gives us food in good faith know that it reaches the right people,” Deidre Adams from FoodFowardSA says.
As the possibility of the national lockdown being extended for the second time looms large over South Africa, the need for more support for vulnerable families will increase. This will require that all stakeholders, including government, manage the few resources at their disposal better so that more South Africans can go to bed with, at least, something in their tummy.
This picture is courtesy to freepik