Food parcel permits doom thousands to hunger

Government's added red tape for those wanting to help the poor could mean thousands more go hungry, as the list of people needing help continues to grow due to the virus lockdown.


Government’s centralised food distribution plan for Covid-19 won’t reach the desperate families who need it on time, according to concerned non-governmental organisations (NGOs). The hurdles faced by people and organisations trying to distribute food directly to beneficiaries indicated an ill-advised attempt to centralise food parcel distribution channels, says Themba Masango, secretary general of Not in My Name. What government fails to appreciate, he says, is that community-based organisations are better positioned to manage the food relief efforts. “Our complaint in terms of the Covid-19 issues is that we were not happy with the statement issued on the 27th which indicates…

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Government’s centralised food distribution plan for Covid-19 won’t reach the desperate families who need it on time, according to concerned non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

The hurdles faced by people and organisations trying to distribute food directly to beneficiaries indicated an ill-advised attempt to centralise food parcel distribution channels, says Themba Masango, secretary general of Not in My Name.

What government fails to appreciate, he says, is that community-based organisations are better positioned to manage the food relief efforts.

“Our complaint in terms of the Covid-19 issues is that we were not happy with the statement issued on the 27th which indicates that we should come and give the food parcels to them. We are more than capable of distributing these items ourselves because communities trust NGOs better, we know these communities better and also we need to be able to give feedback to our donors. We cannot do that if we don’t know what happens to those donations,” says Masango.

Last month the Gauteng Department of Social Development announced it was facilitating and receiving donations (in kind) from all organisations, companies, civil society bodies and individual citizens donating essential items including food, sanitation products or sanitisers, dignity packs and sanitary towels. All donations were to be delivered to 30 Mandy Road, Reuven, Booysens in Johannesburg.

The department’s Gauteng head of department Thembani Mhlongo instructed those who wanted to distribute items themselves to submit applications with all the relevant documents at least 48 hours before the desired date of delivery.

Not in My Name has reached over 500 families in townships around KZN and Gauteng since the declaration of the Covid-19 outbreak as a national disaster earlier this year. Masango believes that the additional permit now required of NGOs to distribute food parcels are pointless for NGOs which were already compliant in terms of the requirements and had been doing the same work since before the lockdown.

Some organisations were already identifying gaps where government’s red-tape-addled food parcel deliveries would fail to feed all who needed it.

Hunger is creeping into the homes of those previously considered to be thriving in the community. Informal traders and small business owners who depended on their enterprises to put food on the table are starting to join the ranks of millions of South Africans that suffer from hunger.

Before the onset of the viral outbreak, there was an estimated 14 million people who went hungry daily, while an additional 14 million were at risk.

Logan Kruger, a 39-year-old community worker in Bloemfontein, leapt into action from the onset of the lockdown, moving to increase her feeding scheme’s capacity from 400 to 600 recipients. Hot food, which was later banned, was in high demand among the very poor, who lived without electricity or running water, which were necessary components for cooking one’s own food.

“I know a lady who was running a hair salon. She has nothing now, and we have found that now these are the people who are least able to cope with hunger because they are not used to asking for help. We now want to focus on these people as well, because these are the ones who will commit suicide or resort to harmful habits out of desperation,” said Kruger.

“There have been challenges with government when it comes to the delivery of food parcels to the end user – the people who have remained hungry. So we have been proactive in serving those people. I have been running a feeding scheme in a predominantly poor and coloured community,” says Kruger.

Many of the over 600 people she helps feed live in an informal settlement which does not have electricity or running water.

This means the majority of its inhabitants struggle to cook food, even if they have some.

“The problem with the ban on cooked food is that many people cannot cook. Out of the 600 people in the squatter camp about 200 are children and you can’t guarantee that these food parcels from government will end up feeding children. Some parents are unable to cook, some are on drugs and they won’t cook, and other children don’t have parents,” Kruger explained.

simnikiweh@citizen.co.za

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