The Eastern Cape Department of Social Development has admitted that the current budget available for food parcels for distribution to families in need due to the current Coronavirus outbreak in the province, is “very insufficient”.
In response to a letter I wrote to the MEC for Social Development, Siphokazi Mani-Lusithi, last week, the Department has confirmed that the Provincial SASSA funding allocation for the 2020/2021 financial year, totalling R45,5 million, is enough to procure 33 390 food parcels for the province.
This funding is barely enough to supply 12.6% of the 264 312 households in the province, whom the department says have zero income and have no idea where their next meal is coming from, with a food parcel that will last less than a month.
The SASSA funding has been distributed to the various districts as follows:
- Alfred Nzo: R5,5 million to purchase 4007 food parcels (40 per ward)
- Amathole: R11,4 million to purchase 8347 food parcels (49 per ward)
- Chris Hani: R5,5 million to purchase 4007 food parcels (36 per ward)
- Joe Gqabi: R3,6 million to purchase 2671 food parcels (59 per ward)
- Nelson Mandela Metro: R5,9 million to purchase 4341 food parcels (72 per ward)
- OR Tambo: R10,5 million to purchase 7680 food parcels (53 per ward)
- Sarah Baartman: R3,2 million to purchase 2337 food parcels (32 per ward)
The department has indicated that, while it has no specific Coronavirus funding available to it, it does have access to an allocation for Social Relief Services meant to assist people who are experiencing undue hardship and who as a result find it difficult to meet their family basic needs and obligations.
The total budget allocation for this is R5,2 million, which could procure an additional 3 852 food parcels, using the average SASSA rate of R1 359.18 per parcel.
This means, combined, there is enough money to procure 37 242 food parcels.
The department says there is currently more than 1,2million households in the Eastern Cape living below minimum living levels. These families’ circumstances have only been aggravated by the current lockdown, as it has removed the possibility of part time and contract work, which is often the sole source of income for these families.
With thousands of jobs on the line, happens when the first round of food parcels has been bought and distributed, and these funds have been depleted?
I am relieved that the department is acting on suggestions put forward by the Democratic Alliance, and is in the process of submitting a proposal to provincial treasury to secure additional funds to assist with the distribution of food parcels to families in dire need due to the current lockdown.
It is absolutely vital that the relief funding being sought be granted, and that the turnaround time for handing out food parcels needs to be expedited.
For families who have already been under lockdown for two and a half weeks, the need for assistance is now, and delays in distribution could literally have life or death implications.
At a time like this when we are confronting the unknown, all parties need to work together to find the best solutions for the province.