Thousands of NGOs face the risk of closure if the lack of government funding persists, since billions of rands are being dedicated to fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

Organisations which provide crucial support to the government say they have received little to no funding since March 2020 and are concerned about the funding cuts which they say would impact government’s efforts to fight the pandemic.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has forced governments around the world to allocate increased funding to fight the virus, non-governmental and non-profit organisations in South Africa says they’ve been left in the lurch.

More than 220 000 NGOs in the country have for decades been supporting government to treat and manage illnesses and offer psycho-social support to victims.  From testing and treatment of HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, to offering counselling for depression and shelters for abused victims.

However, now as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, government funding that ensures their daily operations has been cut drastically.

Director of the Muslim Aids Programme (MAP) Suraiya Nawab says, “We are best placed as NGOs to go into communities for COVID-19 to do screening. For MAP, there are 30 staff members that are out of jobs, and 30 staff members that are well trained to do COVID-19 testing. There is a big problem about stigma with COVID-19, very much like HIV. Between the 28 organisations, we have a footprint in the 9 provinces. I’m very disappointed, we could go in and fast track the screening process. They are not getting the awareness about COVID-19 and the added risk that HIV places.”

Blow for HIV sufferers

The blow to funding has also resulted in many HIV sufferers defaulting on treatment and thereby increasing the risk of contracting COVID-19.

Zakheni Training and Development Center which operates in three provinces providing HIV management processes in underprivileged communities in South Africa says 85 jobs at the centre are on the line.

Zakheni Executive Director Kawepano Mbale says, “We are really struggling as a local organisation to provide healthcare. We also look at about 85 employment opportunities at stake in the 3 provinces. We also talking about sustaining and paying remuneration for our staff that have worked so dearly to skill and develop. They are just sitting, not doing anything. Above all, we cannot pay rent, debit orders cannot go through…”

“Our people are currently defaulting on HIV treatment. Those organisations that were previously funded, can no longer continue their services so you can see the impact,” says Mbale.

Open letter

The NGOs have written an open letter to President Cyril Ramaphosa asking for his intervention.

Smile Foundation CEO Hedly Lewis says, “When the COVID-19 pandemic hit South Africa, we heeded the call by our president to step up. Obviously the needs that the NPOs were addressing prior to COVID-19 have not disappeared. Civil society has gone through some very tough times obviously because budgets have been cut and economic times in our country. Hence the call to the presidency to assist us with stabilising this sector…”

“During COVID-19, we have seen NGOs assist with feeding, psychological support, assisting the government with rallying the public for PPE equipment, doctors, nurses and heroes that are on the front line,” added lewis.

Meanwhile, in a written response the Department of Social Development says since the announcement of the COVID-19 Pandemic lockdown, some services were closed and these included; Early Childhood Developments, Drop in Centres, Home Community based care centres and community Development Centres to mention a few…






Author-Prabashini Moodley