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Poor pushed over brink into hunger

Imagine this: you are unemployed and survive on income from odd jobs around town.

With the national lockdown severely limiting movement, your already measly source of income has completely dried up.

On the Easter weekend people come to your neighbourhood to give out food parcels.

Only, by the time you get to the delivery point, it is too late, the limited number of parcels are finished.

You go back home, banking on word on the street that there would be more the next day.

That day comes. Nothing.

The next and then the next continue to dash your hopes.

Frustration mounts and anger erupts when police push back against a desperate community gathering to search for answers.

Behind the protests in Alexandra, northern Johannesburg, this week are real people with families desperate to get food.

For many citizens living in conditions of poverty, the past two weeks have pushed them further into a state of destitution. Different spheres of government have stepped in with some relief efforts.

But it is not enough to meet the growing need in our communities.

In a radio interview yesterday, social development minister Lindiwe Zulu said negotiations were happening with Treasury to allow for the annual Sassa budget to be used to help those in need.

Provided that all appropriate laws are adhered to, these efforts must be supported.

Furthermore, initiatives such as the Solidary Fund are most crucial at this time.

They must not only plug efficiency gaps that exist in state delivery, they should also expand capacity using networks available in the private sector.

Indeed, we agree that preserving health, through current lockdown regulations, is of utmost importance.

However, we also need to ensure that we have a capacitated, well-coordinated and far-reaching delivery machinery to help communities currently battling to survive.

Covid-19 demands from all of us as a nation to exercise a level of empathy, dedication and innovation unprecedented in recent years to ensure that we confront the humanitarian crisis facing our society.

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