Children are starving, but Social Development Offices remain shut

Children are starving, but Social Development Offices remain shut

The number of children younger than five suffering from severe acute malnutrition (SAM) in the Eastern Cape is on the rise, but in the areas where the need is greatest, the Department of Social Development’s local and district offices remain shut.

During his State of the Province Address (SOPA), Premier Oscar Mabuyane announced that his government was investing R60 million to support 30,000 vulnerable households in the province.

How will that aid reach those who need it most if the Department mandated with the identification of beneficiaries has closed its doors to the people?

In response to a parliamentary question from the Democratic Alliance (DA) Social Development MEC, Bukiwe Fanta, revealed that the number of children under five diagnosed with SAM was on the increase, rising a staggering 36,6% from 3,011 in the 2020/21 financial year to 4,116 in the 2022/23 financial year.

Download Response.

The worst affected regions are Alfred Nzo, with 956 cases, and OR Tambo, with 857 cases, recorded between April 2022 and March 2023.

In a separate response, MEC Fanta revealed that a child and youth care centre in Alfred Nzo and three offices in OR Tambo, namely the Port St Johns, Qumbu and Mqanduli offices, are currently closed. In the case of the Mqanduli office, the building has been shut for more than five years!

Download Response.

A service office in Aberdeen, in the Sarah Baartman District, and six offices in the Buffalo City Metro are also shut.

The Aberdeen office employs five social practitioners. They are currently based at Aberdeen High School on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays because, on Mondays and Fridays, they have to travel to Graaff-Reinet (52km away) to do administrative work. Why? Because that’s where their desktop computers are. Only the centre manager has a laptop and a departmental cell phone.

This is the state of the Department of Social Development! No wonder our children are dying from hunger!

The number of people living below the food poverty line in the Eastern Cape has increased in every district since 2019. In OR Tambo, 49.8% of the district’s population does not have sufficient means to secure enough food.

It cannot be allowed that social welfare services are not readily available to the people in the Eastern Cape when we are facing a crisis with high unemployment, poverty and children dying of starvation.

The DA’s policy on social development recommends raising the child support grant to the food poverty line from R510 to R760, extending the child grant to include learners who are still attending school over the age of 18 until they complete their National Senior Certificate, and extending the child grant to cover pregnant mothers to support child nutrition goals. Our policy also focuses on economic growth and job creation to ensure fewer people require such assistance.

The DA has a plan to rescue the Eastern Cape that includes appointing people fit for purpose and ensuring that money meant for the people is spent on the people.