WATCH | Durban organisations bring relief and dignity to the hungry

A KwaZulu-Natal NGO gave food parcels to the needy this week.
A KwaZulu-Natal NGO gave food parcels to the needy this week.
Image: Gino Santa Maria/123RF

A network of Durban organisations have joined hands to deliver food, and dignity to those in need.

“Our door-to-door distribution addresses the needs of people who are housebound, the frail, the aged, the sick and those that can't get to the mass distributions and are being left out,” said Yasiera Suliman from Caring Sisters Network (CSN), an organisation that assists communities in need.

Suliman partnered with Durban-based eThekwini Secure and Outreach to deliver 1,500 food parcels mainly within Durban and to Eshowe and Nkandla in northern KwaZulu-Natal on Sunday.

Suliman, who is an optometrist and also belongs to the Islamic Medical Association — which also supports the outreach project — said food security was regarded as an important priority before lockdown commenced.

“Our organisation which usually facilitates outreach and feeding programmes in various communities realised that people would be starving because they wouldn't be employed during lockdown.

“We were able to call on our partners and sponsors who rallied to our calls. It was mainly from the Muslim community but people from all races and religions contributed. Within a few days we were able to raise about R5m and we have been able to feed thousands of people.”

Suliman said they had seen the success of the work carried out by the organisation eThekwini Secure/Outreach run by Imtiaz Syed, who is also chair of the Mayville Community Policing Forum.

“We source the donations and hampers and they are the logistics partners because of their network. We wanted to make sure that we reach the right people,” Suliman said.

Syed, together with an army of volunteers, has handed out about 7,000 parcels since the start of lockdown in 15 areas including Phoenix, Chatsworth, Umkomaas, Effingham, and Gillits.

He said at an initial meeting facilitated by the department of co-operative governance and traditional affairs, he realised that they had a number of donors and sponsors but what they needed were people on the ground.

“We have  15 areas and what we have done is create WhatsApp groups and numbers for different areas where people are able to ask for assistance. We have created a database of lists and we are then able to allocate hampers. We come to your door with dignity and give you a hamper and ask basic questions about their situation.

“The hardest thing for us to see was a man who would have been working for 20-odd years, now standing in a queue requesting a hamper and that was the difficulty we faced. Therefore our distribution is door-to-door, knock and drop.”

On Sunday they delivered 200 hampers to households in Eshowe and 150 to recipients in Nkandla using contacts which include police and community leaders.

He said they had refrained from dealing with councillors and ward committees and `had been very “clear and prescriptive” about the distribution, working with activists in a community to identify those in need.

“There is no political agenda to anything that we started doing and we don't get used by politicians in that way. If a politician makes a request, we give them the WhatsApp for that area and they have to follow the queue.

“We call it hand to hand, it's not hand to organisation to candidate, or someone who has an agenda and then to hand. For us it must be hand to hand, come off the truck to the person who receives and that's the way we are going about it,” he said.

According to Babazile Mbatha, who facilitated the food delivery in Eshowe in northern KwaZulu-Natal, said that they had not received any food parcels since the president's announcement about them.

A recipient in the area said that the food parcels would go a long way as the pension money their parents and grandparents were receiving was not enough

“Living in rural areas is very difficult and the elderly around here are also struggling, it's really hard. This even pushes us to think about making bad decisions. Our grandparents get their pension but it doesn't go a very long way and we aren't able to buy food. If we worked we would be able to assist our parents,” she said.

For a local taxi driver, in Nkandla northern KwaZulu-Natal, the food parcels made him and his community feel like they were being noticed. He has not been able to earn a regular income since lockdown regulations affected his work.

“Thank you to the outreach for many of us are hungry here and as you continue to move to other places you will see that. We are hungry, no-one is paying attention to us, no-one knows that we are here,” said the man.

The man, who has to feed seven people, said that lockdown had been extremely difficult for the entire community. “At the moment we have nowhere to turn to, there is no food, we don't know what the children are going to eat. The children are eating a lot and they haven't been to school and there's nothing that can be done. We're saying that they must just continue helping us because there are lot of us in this area who are hungry,” he said.


X