The Gauteng Department of Social Development has been inundated with calls and requests for food parcels from hungry citizens. According to reports, at least 7000 requests for food parcels a day have been received in Gauteng.
The demand and high call volumes resulted in the shutting down of the call centre.
However, the department has emphasized that not everyone qualifies for food parcels as there is a strict criteria which places underprivileged children, the unemployed and the elderly at the top.
In the video below, Gauteng Premier David Makhura says the provincial government reaches 2000 households daily:
Non-Governmental Organisations, that are working with government to ensure that food parcels reach the right families, say they have been caught off guard by the number of people in desperate need for food because of the lockdown.
Chief Executive Officer of Rays of Hope in Alexandra Sihle Mooi says they work with 30 other NGOs as well as social workers to identify the vulnerable and verify information received.
“Initially we started with the list and now it’s getting bigger. We are receiving requests from feeding schemes and from churches. What we found in Alexandra was that people are shocked, fearful and hopeless. There wouldn’t be income coming in. They were not sure how it was going to work out to be a meter away from each other when they live in such cramped houses. In a one room shack there are about 9 or 12 people. “
Not everyone qualifies to receive food parcels
Hunger, desperation and uncertainty are just some of the effects of the lockdown. With the extension, some have lost out on their income stream, yet stomachs have to be filled.
This has resulted in thousands turning to government so they too can be provided with some relief.
Yet there is a strict criteria- as government prioritises the sick, children, the elderly, the homeless and those who have no income due to the lockdown.
Gauteng Department of Social Development’s Thabiso Hlongwane says by last week Friday, 8 000 families have been assisted and more are to benefit from the social relief program.
“The Department of Social Development established what we call a central food bank where food donations will be sent. The central food bank will feed all five food banks in the five regions. As a result, the lists are still coming in and people are still getting food. We are calling for people to be patient with us because we cannot provide food at one go as we are dealing with a high volume of people who need assistance. Those that qualify, you must be an unemployed citizen, and the combined income of your family to be below R3600.”
Alexandra residents desperate for food
Alexandra resident Tshepo Mosima says community members are in desperate need of food. Mosima says a number of volunteers; churches and NGOs have also joined hands to ensure no one goes to bed hungry.
Mosimo says they deliver the parcels to their home addresses to avoid crowds.
“They need food, they need porridge, they need sugar, milk. To add on to their groceries, they need detergents, soap, sanitizers. Everybody on the streets right now, whenever they see someone holding a plastic bag, you can see the look on their faces that we are really in need of food. We even see people who were able to afford, it’s not just poor people. People are really starting to be insecure.”
DA not pleased with government’s work in distributing food parcels
The Democratic Alliance has on the other hand accused the Gauteng Department of Social Development of failing the poor. The party says the department is failing to meet its 48 hour turnaround time to deliver food parcels to residents.
“In their media statements the department has indicated that they would deliver within two working days. However, many reports have been received by myself and fellow colleagues in the province, that some people are sitting with more than 14 days waiting for food parcels to be delivered. This is really frustrating because people are hungry and at the same time, people are starting to fight with the public reps who are trying to assist them, ” says
DA Gauteng Shadow MEC for Social Development Refiloe Nt’sekhe.
All requests go through a screening process by the department before the food bank can be notified. Only then can the parcels be delivered. While the Gauteng government has not given an indication as to when the call centre will be operational again, those with internet access, can forward requests via email to “firstname.lastname@example.org.
Below is more information about the lockdown: