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Durban - Economic pressures are hitting Durban’s urban communities, with more families crying out for food and clothing donations.
Charity workers say that even those living in some affluent suburbs are battling to put food on the table.
Parents of young babies are asking for food and winter clothes for their infants, so desperate that they will even take boys’ clothes for a girl.
Charity organisations say that divorce, unemployment and the ever-increasing prices of food are contributing factors to the problem.
Mickey Wilkins, the chief executive of the Domino Foundation – a non-profit organisation that has been working in north Durban areas for the past 10 years and provides 4 000 meals a day for families in crisis – said that although most of its work was feeding orphaned and vulnerable children in crèches in informal settlements, the organisation also provided food to urban families.
Through its sandwich kitchen in Durban North, Domino provided about 900 sandwiches each day to schools in and around North Coast Road, Wilkins said. They were quietly given to pupils by designated staff. This was so that pupils in need could sit down with their peers at lunch time and take out their sandwich, as if it had been brought from home.
“We started this feeding work as there were learners in the north Durban area who could not concentrate in the classroom because of a lack of food,” said Wilkins.
However, to reach the families in need was not easy, he said, as a sense of pride often made it difficult for them to verbalise their predicaments.
Reasons for these situations included breadwinners taking longer than expected to find work, and single mothers raising their children without financial assistance.
Single mothers who were employed and earning a salary of about R8 000 to R10 000 a month were not able to make ends meet after paying school fees, rent and medical aid.
“They are living in a hand-to-mouth situation, where the quality and quantity of food is not sufficient,” said Wilkins.
Domino was even feeding pupils at top Durban North schools.
Two weeks ago, a Bluff pupil fainted at school and it was found that he had not been able to eat at home.
Families in south and west Durban have, in the past few months, turned to Facebook for help, asking for employment opportunities, food, clothing and items such as beds and curtains. Winter clothes for babies and children topped the list.
Ria Breed, the regional organiser of Helping Hands, a community organisation that works throughout KwaZulu-Natal, said that it, too, had seen an escalation in the number of families approaching it for food and clothing daily.
However, some people were too ashamed to ask for help.
“We get in touch with these people through referrals of others,” Breed said.
Penny Bard, the founder of the non-profit Keep Hope Alive, said families across all races and areas were crying out for food and clothing, especially for babies and children.
“I opened my cupboard to a lady who needed clothes. Her children saw my bread and were crying for it,” said Bard.
She said there were many families in need in Reservoir Hills, Sydenham, Overport and Clare Estate. Mervyn Abrahams, the director of the Pietermaritzburg Agency for Community Social Action, said middle-class families were suffering with the added pressure of school fees and bond increases. The Department of Social Development said it was assisting in all areas.