Combatting hunger in the time of COVID-19

Saturday, July 18, 2020

In the midst of the COVID-19 storm, citizens are rallying together to cushion the blow of a pandemic that is not only taking the lives of many, but is also playing Russian Roulette with the livelihoods of those left to pick up the pieces.

With today marking Day 114 of South Africa’s lockdown, there is no doubt that the latter has gone a long way in delaying the spread of the virus, which has affected economies across the world.

While a lot is still being discovered about COVID-19, what is evident is that in the wake of the pandemic, many have had to take pay-cuts as businesses battle to cope with a loss of income.

Some can simply walk over to their fridge for a snack without giving it a second thought while for others, going to bed on an empty stomach is a stark reality.

As the world commemorates Nelson Mandela Day today, the foundation that the former Statesman founded in 1999, has been hard at work to make a difference in communities.

“Nelson Mandela inaugurated Nelson Mandela International Day in 2009 as a response to what he saw as a global crisis of poverty and inequality. Today, COVID-19 has brutally exposed the deep inequality in most societies and has thrust the world deeper into a crisis of poverty,” said Nelson Mandela Foundation (NMF) Chief Executive Officer Sello Hatang.

Hatang’s comments come on the heels of Statistics South Africa’s series of surveys aimed at measuring the impact of COVID-19 on individuals.

The web based surveys conducted between April and May were conducted to assist government and other stakeholders in their response to the crisis.

In the surveys that received over 2 600 responses, the percentage of respondents who reported receiving no income increased from 5.2% before the lockdown to 15.4% by the sixth week of the national lockdown.

The majority of respondents reported salaries or wages as their primary source of income before and during the national lockdown.

In addition, the proportion of respondents who reported experiencing hunger since the start of lockdown increased from 4.3% to 7% as a result of the pandemic.

While not representative of the entire South African population, the surveys provide insight into the challenges faced by South Africans in these uncertain times.

“In South Africa, thousands of people are starving [and] this is why we have set up a hunger relief fund, known as Each1Feed1, as a way to intervene in these challenging circumstances. For us it is a core Mandela Day programme,” Hatang told SAnews.

The fund is a call to all South Africans to partner with the foundation by contributing to a food distribution network.

Individuals can do this by donating essential products through their local grocery stores, thereby assisting communities in need.

The initiative forms part of the foundation’s “Mandela Day: The Next Chapter” new strategy in charting a new path in fighting poverty and inequality.

The strategy focusses on five areas, including shelter, education, food and nutrition, sanitation, and active citizenry.

The foundation has donated R500 000 towards food distribution in communities in need.

The programme is inspired by the old Congress of South African Students (COSAS) mantra “Each one, teach one”, and is adopted in honour of anti-apartheid activist Oliver Reginald Tambo.

In Each1Feed1, the NMF has partnered with the Kolisi Foundation, Imbumba Foundation, Soap for Hope and Rise Against Hunger, to build a food distribution network where food hampers are distributed.

Mandela Day 2020, gives a special focus on food and nutrition, as well as on education and sanitation.

In commemorating what would have been Mandela’s 102nd birthday today, the foundation will launch a new Each1Feed1 food voucher system for vulnerable communities.

Together with its partners, the NMF is calling on those who can help the initiative by donating or providing facilities and resources to distribute food.

Hatang said partnerships with government in several areas is important in providing relief to those impacted adversely by COVID-19.

“Our partnership with the Department of Social Development in supporting Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres and practitioners is one way we are collaborating to ensure greater impact of our interventions,” he said.

It is no secret that Mandela loved children dearly, and the partnership between the two parties is aimed at improving the standard of ECD centres in enhancing the quality of ECD services, including nutrition, health and safety of children.

Reflecting on the fund, Hatang said initially the priority was placed on families that have no income with a special focus on child headed households, the elderly, people living in deep rural areas, as well as informal crèche workers on whom many children depend on for food.

Since the initiative’s launch in April, valuable lessons have been learnt which have led to the birth of innovative ideas.

“One of these ideas is our intention to implement a voucher system for food to replace physical distribution. That way we will have more beneficiaries reached, but also limit the risk of contact while we are still dealing with COVID-19,” explained Hatang.

With South Africans observing Mandela Month this July, Hatang has called on individuals to emulate Each1Feed1 by helping families that have nothing to eat.

Each1Feed1 collection boxes or local store specific boxes can be found in participating retail stores

“Everyone is encouraged to contribute in this way continuously, as we know that the challenge of food insecurity is a persistent and pervasive one. In your organisations, your workplaces, families, and in your private capacities, we ask that we all support a family this Mandela Day as we work towards eradicating hunger and food insecurity,” said Hatang.

Among those who have heeded the NMF’s call is retailer Pick ‘n Pay, the Ford Foundation and Old Mutual.

With many experiencing a feeling of anxiety as the numbers of those infected with COVID-19 continues to climb, Hatang reminded South Africans of their ability to overcome difficulties.

“South Africa is a nation that is perhaps best described as a nation borne out of solidarity. The means by which we overcame our troubled past was by each group working together towards a clear goal of justice. It is time, again, to ignite our culture of solidarity as we face the greatest test of our character and cohesion since the dawn of democracy,” said Hatang.

While the race to find a cure for COVID-19 continues, every citizen can contribute in ensuring 365 days of a warm meal to each and every one in need. – SAnews.gov.za

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