File picture:Brendan Magaar/African News Agency (ANA)
File picture:Brendan Magaar/African News Agency (ANA)

Hunger catastrophe avoided in SA thanks to civil society organisations

By Yolisa Tswanya Time of article published Jul 3, 2020

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Cape Town – A hunger catastrophe was averted in the country thanks to civil organisations that distributed food parcels to those in need when the Covid-19 pandemic hit, experts say.

In that first month-and-a-half of lockdown, the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) reported that the national number of people who were no longer getting an income had spiralled from 5.2% to 15.4% - and worse was expected to come.

According to the DST-NRF Centre of Excellence in Food Security,

and the Centre for the Study of Governance Innovation in the Western Cape, civil society was on the move in determined fashion.

In 74 days from March 25, they fed more than 41 000 hungry people every day; prepared more than 3 million

meals; distributed nearly 80 000 food parcels; and assisted households

and community kitchens with digital shopping vouchers to the value of R854 700.

At a meeting hosted by the centre, co-ordinator of the Food Relief Co-ordination Forum Andrew Boraine commended the sheer magnitude of civil society contributions.

“The civil society contribution accounted for 50% of the total relief effort in the Western Cape, and that was probably still an undercount. The new challenge is to turn those short-term relief efforts into long-term recovery policies and future plans.”

He said there was no reason why the rise of the role of civil society organisations during the lockdown could not be sustained into the future, playing a critical role in driving policy and food security campaigns, while building on emergent partnerships.

“These relationships that have

been built in the crisis will stand us

in good stead for the recovery

period.

“We need to harness the energy of these new networks as we advocate

for food security and diverse food systems to become central to the

Western Cape government's recovery plan.”

Egbert Wessels, of the Philippi Economic Development Initiative, commented that one of the biggest things learnt from the civil society response, was the extent to which community structures could be relied on to identify the most vulnerable families in the areas they serve.

“One of the most amazing legacies of this time would have to be the trust relationships that have been built up, in communities like Philippi, to channel emergency relief in a responsible and appropriate way to those who need it most.

“They stepped-up in terms of direct food relief long before the government. And what we have learnt is that this bottom-up approach to food relief - if properly instituted in a dignified,

collaborative manner - is the way to go with grassroots food distribution,” he said.

Cape Times

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