Extreme hunger will be kept at bay for a number of poverty-stricken communities in the North West - including Verdwaal, the village whose plight was highlighted in a Pretoria News exposé.
The Department of Social Development has identified seven communities in the province, including Verdwaal, where people do not have documentation and jobs, and malnourished children survive on a single bowl of porridge a day.
On Tuesday, the department launched a Food for All campaign offering sustainable help to those who cannot provide for themselves and who have no access at this stage to government social grants.
The campaign comes in the wake of Pretoria News reports about four children from Verdwaal, aged between two and nine, who died on a trek in search of food. The children, like many others in the village, survived on a daily bowl of pap.
Hunger drove the children - two of them the brother and sister of Kedibone Mmupele and two of them her own children - to follow her when she walked to a farm 18km away to find food. The children died of hunger and dehydration, two of them collapsing 10km into their trek and the others 2km further on.
Initial reports were followed up, exposing the extreme need in the community. A crisis meeting followed, bringing together officials of the departments of health, social development and home affairs, social workers, the ward councillor, residents and representatives of the Gift of the Givers Foundation.
The public, including many Pretoria News readers, responded to the reports with shock and sympathy, and donations and pledges followed.
The Gift of the Givers Foundation delivered emergency relief consisting of food parcels, blankets, nappies and infant milk formula to the village.
The Food for All campaign promises longer-term assistance for Verdwaal and other equally impoverished villages in the province.
Seven such communities have been identified.
Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini said: “We will be prioritising the very desperate areas whose people have no documents - from birth certificates to identity documents - and so cannot access social grants.”
The minister said the Department of Health had carried out an investigation and named areas of abject poverty in which children were malnourished. These included Verdwaal village in Itsoseng, near Lichtenburg in North West.
She confirmed that the department, while responding to the health department’s recommendations, had also noted the media reports.
“We are responding to that (health) report, which told us that areas populated by former farm dwellers and people from the former Bantustans lived on land on which they could not make a living.”
The report revealed that large areas were occupied by people who could not apply for state grants because they did not have personal papers.
“We found people whose parents lived on farms and were discouraged from getting documentation for grants by farmers and so are not verifiable as nationals, or those whose parents had come from across the border.”
Some of those who could access grants bought mealie meal and potatoes, but did not have a balanced diet and had malnutrition.
The Food For All campaign extends beyond handing out food and other necessities.
It is also aimed at ensuring assistance is given that would lead to communities being able to sustain themselves.
The minister took representatives of the departments of health and home affairs, agriculture, the SA Social Security Agency, the SAPS and others who can be of assistance to the communities with her on a visit to Makgori village in the province yesterday.
The programme will continue on January 20 with the handover of livestock to 100 identified families who will be mentored and monitored in rearing them for a living. - Pretoria News