Supply of food parcels in Nelson Mandela Bay woefully inadequate

Shop owners in Booysen Park have heeded President Cyril Ramaphosa’s call to help the needy by handing out 50 food parcels in Ward 29. Abdi Qani, from Saverite Savemore, right, and Ward 29 councillor Vukile Dyele left, give a food parcel to John Maxhego, 64, who has been living in a shack in Polard Park for the past 15 years
Shop owners in Booysen Park have heeded President Cyril Ramaphosa’s call to help the needy by handing out 50 food parcels in Ward 29. Abdi Qani, from Saverite Savemore, right, and Ward 29 councillor Vukile Dyele left, give a food parcel to John Maxhego, 64, who has been living in a shack in Polard Park for the past 15 years
Image: Werner Hills

One butternut. That is all a Port Elizabeth family of five has had for supper over two days this week.

It is just one of many desperate situations that emerged as families spoke of the hunger they were experiencing due to the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown.

As a further demonstration of just how dire the situation is, weekly surveys by TransUnion since the first week of April show just how SA consumers have been affected by the lockdown — one in 10 respondents had already lost his or her job as a result of the pandemic.

Motherwell builder Urayai Mugarai, 33, is one of many parents around Nelson Mandela Bay desperate to feed his wife and three children under the age of eight.

A part-time worker, he had not worked for two weeks before the lockdown began on March 27.

“I am just afraid my family and I will suffer badly from hunger,” he told Weekend Post sister publication The Herald on Thursday, adding that his employed brother had given them a butternut.

“We slice it and boil it and eat it just like that. We had it yesterday [Wednesday] and we will have it again tonight [Thursday].”

Government is providing aid to communities around SA, but at fewer than 75 food parcels a ward in the Bay, this is woefully inadequate as indicated by the daily appeals to this newspaper for access to food.

About R46m has been set aside in the Eastern Cape for Sassa for the provision of food parcels for the 2020/2021 financial year and provincial social development head Ntombi Baart admits this is “very insufficient”.

While there is no special budget for Covid-19, Sassa was authorised to use these funds in a short time to procure about 33,000 food parcels across the province where more than 1.2m households live below the minimum wage.

About R6m was set aside for the Bay. This translates to about 4,000 food parcels — or 72 parcels for every ward.

Baart says the department is developing a proposal to the provincial treasury for additional funds, but will this be enough?

Will it come in time?

And, until more becomes available, who decides which 72 families in a ward benefit?

Perhaps, until this is sorted out, it becomes the responsibility of those of us able to make a difference to do just that.

X