'Hunger crisis is growing, emergency food aid is dwindling' - new Western Cape report

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  • A top level report to the Western Cape government paints a stark picture of the lockdown food crisis in some communities.
  • One community reports: "Families are starving, struggling and urgently waiting for food hampers. The situation is very bad." 
  • Another says "hunger is going to dramatically increase as these funds dry up and donors are dramatically decreasing."

A top level report given to the Western Cape government paints a dire picture of the impact of the lockdown on hunger and community kitchens, most of whom have seen rising food requests and dwindling resources.

And amid this is a need for mass assistance from society and ongoing humanitarian aid as community kitchens "cry out for help".

This is urged in a new report presented to the senior leadership of the Western Cape government (WCG), by the the Economic Development Partnership (EDP).

EDP CEO Andrew Boraine has reported to News24 the province and City have now responded with a range of urgent measures, including numerous funding and food interventions.

The report is the first comprehensive picture of the suffering after the "lockdown" and is headlined: "Hunger is growing, emergency food aid is dwindling - Community kitchens crying out for help and support."

READ | SA facing double storm of Covid-19 and hunger

Presented, are heart-breaking stories of hunger and desperation - and that the elderly are bearing the brunt of the food crisis.

A massive humanitarian response has prevented the dam wall of hunger from breaking, including by the Western Cape NGO-Government Food Relief Coordination Forum, convened by the EDP.


But the situation is now deteriorating, the report warns.

In mid-June, in a survey of NGOs, "89% indicated that they were experiencing an increase in requests for food in poor and vulnerable communities. At the same time, 70% indicated that they were experiencing dwindling resources, due to donor and volunteer fatigue.

"This coincides with the WCG and similar public bodies facing severe fiscal constraints and budget cuts."

The report cites anecdotes from various communities, after a survey of NGOs:

Witzenberg: "Families are starving, struggling and urgently waiting for food hampers. The situation is very bad, we cannot feed our babies and our children are asking for bread, they need to eat. We are single moms who have lost jobs."

Delft: "We are funding ingredients for 28 kitchens preparing 72 000 meals a week. We are seeing real hunger and desperation in all the sites, N2 Gateway, Macassar informal settlement, Sophiatown, Overcome Heights, Steenberg, Retreat areas, Heinz Park, Delft ... Feeding lines are getting longer as more people are losing their jobs and or other feeding sites are closing down. Also seeing the incredible impact on dogs in these areas too. Dogs lived on scraps of food – there are no scraps left. Dogs are just walking bags of bones and animal charities are not getting the funding and resources they need either."

Masiphumelele, Ocean View and Redhill: "In Fish Hoek a network of 103 community kitchens (run by various NGOs together with independent community volunteers) have been feeding approximately 10 000 a day for the past six weeks - concentrated on the disadvantaged communities of Masiphumelele, Ocean View and Red Hill... resources are dwindling for all involved and we have two Covid hotspots as an additional challenge. Our distance from economic and industrial centres means employment is another challenge even at the best of times. Coupled with the failures in distributing UIF and TERS grants, we continue to see the need for food-aid increasing."

George: "Recently received message from Carpe Diem school for the disabled, which the Eden Lions support frequently, indicating approximately 60 families with disabled children who are essentially "dying" of starvation. The school has been assisting them where possible, but their resources have dried up... The story is simple but complex - hunger is going to dramatically increase as these funds dry up and donors are dramatically decreasing."

Ekuphumleni, Khayelitsha: "Running a soup kitchen and currently feeding 400-450 people a day from Monday to Friday. The need has grown so much and I'm afraid to say that we are gradually running out of resources slowly but surely."

Helderberg: "In Nomzamo, Lwandle, Strand and Zola there are people without papers who are scared. Children are being fed but adults go hungry. People are unemployed and the collapse of the informal economy means there is no income. There is no opportunity for isolation and people feel helpless."

"In Macassar (which has the greatest number of Covid cases in the Helderberg) children are suffering from hunger when their parents become Covid positive and there is no food. They need support in the form of food parcels."

Ladles of Love (supplying to 400 partners in local areas in the greater Cape Town metro): "Our challenge is that providing the amount of food we are currently buying and producing is not sustainable going forward. The situation is no longer an immediate crisis but a long-term economic disaster."

The EDP report makes eight hard-hitting recommendations, which has since been tabled before the Western Cape cabinet by the social development department.

Together, they form a comprehensive plea for urgent government support for NGOs.

Only a massive effort - largely by civil society - has prevented food shortages from deteriorating so far, according to the report.

The report details how the pandemic has exacerbated food insecurity in poor and vulnerable communities in three ways:

  • Impact of lockdown: Lockdown, and curtailment of economic activities since end-March, has negatively affected the livelihoods of the "existing poor" - street traders, spaza shops, small scale fishers and farmers, seasonal farm workers, as well as the circumstances of the "newly poor", through job losses and small business closures.
  • Performance of national government: Research by Professor Jeremy Seekings has shown that "the total amount of food distributed (through food parcels and feeding schemes) in the first three months of the lockdown was a tiny fraction of what was needed urgently - and was even a small fraction of what would ordinarily have been distributed without a lockdown, according to the report.
  • Unequal burden of disease: As the recent Global Nutrition Report makes clear: "Covid-19 does not treat us equally. Undernourished people have weaker immune systems, and may be at greater risk of severe illness due to the virus. At the same time, poor metabolic health, including obesity and diabetes, is strongly linked to worse Covid-19 outcomes, including risk of hospitalisation and death." The disease burden of the pandemic has further exacerbated food insecurity... and community organisers have also had to deal with fighting the stigma of the virus, bitterly cold weather, winter flooding, psycho-social needs, violence and gangsterism, etc.

A "whole-of-society effort" has been the saving grace for many of those trying to feed hungry mouths.

"For the past three months in the Western Cape, food insecurity and hunger was partly assuaged through massive efforts of the Solidarity Fund, the WCG, municipalities, private donors and civil society organisations - in other words, a genuine whole-of-society effort.

"The Solidarity Fund distributed 31 579 food parcels in the Western Cape. The WCG has spent over R80m on humanitarian and food aid. The City of Cape Town has allocated R12.1m to 61 NGOs for distribution of food parcels and vouchers, which are currently being distributed. CSOs, backed by private donors, provided over 3.1m meals and distributed 77 000 food parcels in the first 74 days of the lockdown. CSOs, mainly through community kitchens, continue to provide the bulk of food aid at the moment."

Following a meeting on Thursday, Boraine said, at least in the Western Cape, a range of urgent measures weere being considered, including funding allocations from various city of provincial budgets, enhancing the school feeding scheme and sourcing more private donations from the public.

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