Lockdown taking its toll on South Africans' emotions, finances and food supply

  • Many South Africans have felt the impact of the coronavirus lockdown regulations, which have caused emotional distress, financial difficulties and food insecurity. 
  • To date, 49% of people in Level 3 advanced lockdown have borrowed money from friends, family or employers, and one in five borrowed from a loan shark.
  • A staggering 55% of people remain worried about where their next meal will come from.

Many South Africans have felt the impact of the coronavirus lockdown regulations, which have caused emotional distress, financial difficulties and food insecurity, a survey by Ask Afrika has found. 

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Financially, the impact of the lockdown has left many living beyond their means. Loans have become an essential survival plan, which may lead to further indebtedness should the situation not improve.

A third of people have no means of financial assistance. Awareness of government relief of distress is also low.

Although one in five people contacted the UIF for assistance, only 11% received TERS/UIF funding. Most people are more careful with their money than in the past, and half of the respondents mentioned that they will have to borrow money to cope with the lockdown.

To date, 49% of people in Level 3 advanced lockdown have borrowed from friends, family or employers, and one in five borrowed from a loan shark.

Food security remains low as 28% of respondents mentioned that adults in their household lost weight because of a lack of food.

At the start of the lockdown, 26% of adults went to bed hungry due to a lack of food. In Level 3 advanced lockdown, the picture remains similar, at 27%.

Although fewer people are concerned about the amount of food in their homes, a staggering 55% of people remain worried about their next meal.

Additionally, 18% of people mentioned that adults in their home went an entire day without food, as compared to 19% in Level 5 of the lockdown. Most people who reported receiving a food parcel only received it once.

These parcels typically contain maize, rice and cooking oil. A well-nourished body and strong immune system require more than these items to fight off the virus, Ask Afrika reported.

READ | And the least trusted government minister is... Angie Motshekga, survey finds

Methodology

Ask Afrika has been conducting weekly research since the beginning of the coronavirus lockdown on 26 March. The main aim of the research is to understand the socioeconomic impact the coronavirus lockdown and the gradual reopening of the economy has on South Africans.

For this past week's results, quantitative research was done using a 20-minute questionnaire administered in English.

The main aim of the research is to understand the socioeconomic impact that the coronavirus, lockdown and gradual reopening of the economy has on South Africans.

Since 1 April, a total of 6 701 interviews were conducted and the quota structure aligned with the proportions of the general South African population. The results for Week 13 were obtained from 1 to 7 July.


Of the respondents, 74% were black, 12% white, 9% coloured and 5% Indian or Asian. Women made up 53% of respondents and men 47%. The largest represented age group was 25 to 34 (33%) and the second largest 35 to 49 (27%).

Distress index

Overall distress has slightly declined with 1 index point to a total of 31 index points. Although declining, distress remains the highest in the North West (35), Eastern Cape (34) and Mpumalanga (34). The distress is not directly linked to number of Covid-19 cases per province.

The North West and Mpumalanga continue to show high distress, with distress levels in Limpopo increasing. The Eastern Cape shows the most prominent cases of hunger.

As positive Covid-19 cases increase in South Africa, so does the fear of contracting the virus, an 8% increase since the start of the lockdown, when fears around food shortages and loss of income were more predominant.

The fear of contracting Covid-19 has peaked after 14 weeks of lockdown.

Emotional well-being

Anxiety and fear remain high among South Africans and only 23% are managing, even in advanced Level 3. Levels of discouragement have also increased during the levels of lockdown.

During lockdown Level 5, citizens showed high levels of fortitude in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The highest levels were in Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal.

In Level 4, this declined significantly, especially for Limpopo, the North West, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal.

Since the country has moved into Level 3, levels of managing have again increased, with more people in Gauteng, the Free State and Western Cape showing resilience. Since moving to Level 3 advanced, a similar decrease in managing is seen compared to Level 4. KwaZulu-Natal and the North West are, however, showing increased fortitude.

Most citizens (35%) are in a state of sadness with the lockdown and only 22% have accepted the "new normal".

Food security

Although showing an improvement since Level 5, food insecurity has remained high, with half of respondents being concerned about the amount of food in their homes. 

Only 13% of respondents who experience food insecurity received a food parcel, leaving many distressed people without resources to maintain their basic well-being.

The majority of the few respondents who received a food parcel only received it once. These parcels mostly contained maize meal, cooking oil and rice. The food parcel was sufficient for most respondents and two in three expect to receive another parcel in the near future to sustain their livelihoods.

Food parcels remain the most important source of aid that government can provide to vulnerable communities. Education awareness is also important to prevent the spread of the virus.

Dissatisfaction with the distribution of food parcels are increasing in Level 3 advanced. This dissatisfaction is significantly higher among women and the youth. Those older than 35 are more satisfied with government's delivery of food parcels than the youth.

Wheelbarrows have become an essential transport method to deliver food to recipients unable to collect from the distribution points and have created employment opportunities for impoverished areas.

Financial well-being

About a third (31%) of respondents have no means of financial assistance and experience financial distress due to the lockdown.

Although citizens generally believe that they are careful with their money, half of respondents indicated that they would have to borrow money to cope with the lockdown; 74% of food-insecure citizens took a loan from friends, family or loan shark. 

As Level 3 advanced progresses, awareness of the R500 billion government loans is dwindling. Nearly a third of people remain unsure of how to access social relief interventions, an area that may require more attention to improve the well-being of South Africans.

Awareness of the Solidarity Fund has decreased slightly from the previous week (5% decline). Those older than 35 have higher levels of awareness of the fund than the youth.

Other key findings
  • Nearly 50% of people believe that the lockdown rules are not too strict, but many are breaking rules which put others at risk.
  • Hand washing behaviour have increased, indicating greater awareness of how the virus spreads.
  • As lockdown regulations are relaxed, positive cases are on the rise, so too is social engagement.
  • Mask wearing has increased over lockdown. This is especially due to people wanting to protect themselves and others from contracting the virus.
  • Many people claim that they struggle to breathe when they wear a mask, and sometimes adjust their mask as it is uncomfortable.
  • Health experts, the WHO and government carry the most weight with regards to Covid-19 behaviour change.
  • Celebrity influencers, traditional healers and leaders are the least likely to influence Covid-19 behavioural change.
  • Most respondents believe government should increase efforts to educate South Africans on the spread of the virus.
  • President Cyril Ramaphosa's leadership is highly regarded by SA citizens, with two in three agreeing on this.

Read the full report here: 

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