Sexual Assault in South AfricaOver 50 care centers in South Africa provide support and resources for survivors of sexual crimes. They serve as “one-stop facilities” for those seeking help. Their mission is “to reduce secondary victimization, improve conviction rates and reduce the time between when a crime is committed and when the perpetrator is finally convicted.” These centers have had success but the overall number of sexual assaults in South Africa, which in reality are most likely significantly higher, are staggering.

Sexual Assault in South Africa

Sexual assault in South Africa is shockingly high. Estimates determined that a sexual offense occurs every 10 minutes. Between April 2019 and March 2020, police statistics reported 53,295 sexual offenses but it is likely that most crimes are not reported. The Medical Health Council estimates that victims only report one in nine attacks. Violence toward women seems to be a normalized part of society as data from 2000 shows similar results. Some claim women in South Africa might experience rape every 17 seconds. Others say every 26 seconds but regardless of exact numbers, it is clear sexual violence toward women is a massive problem for the country.

Police are defensive about sexual assault in South Africa. They say the rate of sexual offenses decreased in the province of Gauteng, but the Institute for Security Studies has pointed out a flaw in their logic. If one considers updated population statistics, the rate of sexual assault increases by 1.5%. As a result, one can determine that 127 people out of 100,000 people were victims of sexual assault.

Rape is an extremely underreported crime. A study in Gauteng in 2010 showed that one-quarter of women who underwent questioning experienced rape in 2009. However, “only one in 13 women raped by a non-partner reported the matter to the police, while only one in 25 of the women raped by their partners reported this to the police.” Therefore, as previously mentioned, statistics about sexual assault in South Africa only show a small amount.

Why Are Numbers So High?

A few factors can show why sexual assault in South Africa is so high. These include how the country struggled to move on from apartheid along with high unemployment, high poverty and unequal land distribution. Both the government and pro-democracy groups used violence to further goals, and after 50 years, society saw violence as normal. The government “used violence to keep control over the ‘non-white’ population, whilst the pro-democracy campaign encouraged violence as a means to further their goals.” The police used violence against women which led to many women fearing or mistrusting the police. This mindset continues to this day.

Police Conviction Records

Convictions for instances of sexual assault in South Africa are low. Around 14% of perpetrators receive sentences for sexual assault with that number going down to 3% when it is against adult women. Around one in 400 rapes in South Africa end in a conviction. Reports say some police take bribes so charges will go away and in Southern Johannesburg, around one in 20 pieces of evidence goes missing. The reasons why most women do not report sexual abuse are clear, as are the reasons why the real number is high. The chances of conviction are very low. While numbers and data often are skewed and naturally change over time, the overall amount of evidence suggests clear problems in the police force when it comes to responding to sexual assault.

Care Centers

Thuthuzela Care Centers have really helped people and since 2006, 51 centers have emerged. The centers are helping survivors and trying to improve conviction rates. Most are near or even attached to hospitals as sometimes medical assistance is necessary. For years, the centers made progress, and now, many centers get around 60-80 patients a month. During holidays, the number is up to around 100-120. The United Nations and the government are currently working to improve the centers even more.

Care centers operate using a five-step process:

  1. A survivor reports a rape case to a center or police station.
  2. The staff at the centers help the survivor obtain medical attention.
  3. The care centers organize counseling for the survivor.
  4. The staff at the centers help the survivor open a police case, which can occur at any time.
  5. The staff arranges ongoing counseling and court preparation for the survivor.

The care centers provide many services to help survivors. However, long-term solutions should also emerge so the actual root of the problem can reach a resolution. However, care centers are still a significant step in the right direction.

– Alex Alfano
Photo: Flickr

Law in South Africa
The poorest citizens of South Africa are amidst a turning point in their history. In July 2021, stress from socioeconomic and pandemic-related challenges boiled to civil unrest after the July 2021 arrest of former president Jacob Zuma. The relationship between circumstances of poverty and conflict drives a volatile history of fragility and rule of law in South Africa and presents challenges to overcoming poverty in the nation.

The Link Between Conflict and Poverty

Poverty and conflict are inseparable resultants of each other: where there is poverty, the fragility and rule of law of a governing body are prone to violence. When more citizens are subject to poor living conditions, the likelihood of conflict is increased. A 2011 report on conflict and poverty describes poverty as a “causal arrow… to the conflict.” This means fragility and rule of law in South Africa are reliant on the improvement of poverty-related conditions. This is due to political promises that call for the end of poverty in the nation. Recent violence suggests that citizens living in poverty believe promises fall short of action. South African unrest in 2021 is anecdotal evidence of the connection poverty and conflict have with each other.

South African Frustration

A 2014 report describes South African citizens taking part in violence as “clamoring for the redemption of the promises made to them.” This description explains the circumstance by which fragility and rule of law in South Africa are affected. Unrest in South Africa explains that poverty plays a major role in exacerbating conflict and makes it clear South Africa has a fragile economy. Those taking part in the widespread unrest were not exercising a meticulously planned attack on the South African government. Rather, those who were looting were filling the absence of governmental aid in the first place. For example, the nation is dealing with a third COVID-19 wave along with rising unemployment. Frustrations in poverty response allowed for unrest to grow in the nation. Jacob Zuma’s arrest was a tipping point in the conflict already consuming lives in South Africa.

Addressing Poverty in South Africa

Poverty reduction efforts in South Africa are mixed. Frustration pointed toward the government reveals widespread poverty. The South African economy has slowed its growth in the past decade. Additionally, the nation has a wide economic disparity between citizens. This disparity is affecting fragility and rule of law in South Africa substantially. In a 2012 report, the Brookings Institution described the nation as “the most consistently unequal country in the world.” Development in the nation has left out a large portion of those living in poverty which means some forgo financial stability.

Regardless of South Africa’s scenario, a key in reducing poverty means improving fragility and rule of law. The 2011 World Development Report argues that “strengthening legitimate institutions and governance to provide citizen security, justice and jobs is crucial to break cycles of violence.” This is the goal of current institutions within South Africa. In 2015, the African National Committee, the ruling party of South Africa, adopted The United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as an addition to its 2012 National Development Plan. The combined goals aim for the elimination of poverty and the reduction of inequality by 2030.

COVID-19 Complications

Progress in sustainable development has not substantially reduced poverty. Rather, the World Bank estimated that poverty increased by 9% due to COVID-19. An increase in unemployment from coronavirus lockdowns highlights the current challenges in reaching the same goals.

Pandemic-related challenges to reducing poverty point to the boiling of governmental control. An increase in household instability during COVID-19 affected fragility and rule of law in South Africa. This explains the recent conflict in the region. Reducing poverty means improving fragility and rule of law in South Africa.

Addressing poverty and economic disparity in South Africa means answering the roots of conflict. Frustrations with the South African government lie within the ability for individuals to have access to human necessities. Foreign assistance and continual support for South Africa’s SDGs can aid efforts to reduce conflict that induces poverty in South Africa.

– Harrison Vogt
Photo: Flickr

Financial Inclusivity in africaWith more than half of the world’s registered mobile money accounts in Africa, the market for financial technology startups is steadily increasing on the continent. By streamlining, simplifying and speeding up trade and transfers, digital payment platforms are helping expand access to financial services and avoid high transaction costs typically charged by banks. As smartphone penetration grows in Africa, tech startups are gaining more customers and receiving more funding, enough to reach “unicorn status” — a title that describes a company valued at more than $1 billion, according to venture capitalists and private equity firms. As of 2019, smartphone penetration in South Africa stands at 91%. Due to the rise in smartphone users and broadband, mobile banking in Africa is quickly becoming more prevalent, increasing financial inclusivity in Africa.

3 Tech Startup Unicorns Promoting Mobile Money

  1. Interswitch. Founded in 2002 by Mitchell Elegbe, “Interswitch is a digital payment platform in Nigeria” that reached unicorn status in 2019. The company owns Verve, Nigeria’s most used payment card, and accounts for 18 million out of the 25 million cards in circulation in the country. The tech startup also owns Quickteller, an online payment platform. In October 2020, Quickteller launched the search for a “QTrybe community,” a group of 50 students from tertiary institutions to represent the company on campuses around Nigeria.
  2. Flutterwave. African payment company Flutterwave received its unicorn status in March 2021 after raising $170 million in funding. Established in 2016 “as a Nigerian and U.S.-based payments company,” Flutterwave “helps businesses build customizable payments applications” through application programming interfaces, a software intermediary that allows two applications to “talk” to each other. Despite the pandemic negatively affecting many growing businesses, Flutterwave’s CEO, Olugbenga Agboola, reports that the “company grew more than 100% in revenue within the past year” due to “an increase in activity in COVID-beneficiary sectors.” These are business sectors that have been thriving due to the pandemic, such as “streaming, gaming, e-commerce and remittance.” Flutterwave is present in 20 African countries and has processed more than 140 million transactions valued at more than $9 billion.
  3. Chipper Cash. Founded in 2018 by Ham Serunjogi and Maijid Moujaled, Chipper Cash is a money transfer startup that facilitates cross-border payments across Africa. In 2021, just three years after it was established, the company confirmed that it raised $100 million, taking its valuation to more than $1 billion, therefore, reaching unicorn status. The company “offers mobile-based, no fee,” peer-to-peer payments. Aside from operating in seven African countries, Chipper Cash has now expanded to the United Kingdom, its very first international market outside of the continent.

Financial Inclusivity and Poverty Reduction

Overall, the emergence and success of these tech startups redefine mobile money and increase financial inclusivity in Africa. By digitizing the process, expanding services and reach as well as lowering costs, financial inclusivity is achieved. Even the most impoverished and marginalized populations are able to participate in the economy through mobile money platforms. According to a report by Boston Consulting Group, “the potential market for banks in sub-Saharan Africa is $500 billion.” For impoverished people who cannot acquire bank accounts, mobile money solutions break down barriers to financial inclusivity in Africa, empowering people to rise out of poverty.

– Annarosa Zampaglione
Photo: Flickr

riots in South AfricaSouth Africa’s poverty rates have long been high, and the pandemic exacerbated the situation for the country’s lowest-income people. Furthermore, weeks of riots in South Africa have left buildings burning, food scarce and many people in Durban and the surrounding cities starving.

Reasons for the Riots

On July 8, South Africa’s former president Jacob Zuma started serving a sentence of 15 months in prison for contempt of court, an offense that entails disrespectful or insulting behavior toward a court of law or law officials. Zuma’s imprisonment angered supporters, especially in his home province of KwaZulu-Natal. As a result, violence and unrest began to spread within the province.

Rioters blocked major highways and burned about 20 trucks, resulting in the closing of two major roads that link the Indian Ocean ports of Durban and Richards Bay to the industrial hub of Johannesburg and Cape Town. Furthermore, looters ransacked shopping malls, taking food, electronics, clothes and liquor. The attacks spread through KwaZulu-Natal to the Gauteng province, the country’s largest city of Johannesburg and the seat of the country’s executive branch, Pretoria. In Durban and Pietermaritzburg, rioters also burned warehouses and factories, collapsing many of their roofs. A week into the riots, 25,000 army troops were deployed, ending the violence, but plenty of damage had already been done.

The Manipulation of the Poor

Thousands of businesses have closed due to fear of ambush by rioters. In addition, because of many looters taking clothes, food, medical supplies and even flat-screen TVs, more than 200 malls have been forced to shut down.

With many businesses closing down in the Durban area, food, clothes and other supplies are rarities. For people living in poverty in Durban and the surrounding towns, food was always scarce, but now it is even more so than usual. Professor Mcebisi Ndletyana, a political analyst, said the communities have left people in poverty to fend for themselves in a system that keeps them in poverty, causing them to start lashing out.

While the riots initially protested the jailing of former President Jacob Zuma, their continuation reflected general grievances over the inequality and poverty that have rocked the country. Amid people in poverty’s anger about decades of mistreatment and discrimination, criminals used the chaos for their own benefit.

July’s riots hit people with unstocked pantries and massive debt the hardest. President Cyril Ramaphosa sent troops to aid police in quelling the riots, but people in poverty remained in need of immediate relief.

Muslims for Humanity

Many Muslim organizations in South Africa have come together to bring relief to people impacted by the riots. South African Muslim businesses and NGOs such as Muslims for Humanity and Natal Memon Jamaat Foundation (NMJ) have come together to distribute bread and milk to communities impacted by violence and looting in the Durban area.

Aahana Goswami
Photo: Flickr

Zuma's Imprisonment
Jacob Zuma, president of South Africa from 2009 to 2018, has received 15 months in prison for contempt of court. Many South Africans, who viewed Zuma and his presidency as corrupt and harmful to their country’s democracy, have long awaited Zuma’s imprisonment and his willingness to serve his sentence. However, there are several factors in Zuma’s life that his supporters point out when contesting his arrest. These include his ties to Nelson Mandela and his role in fighting against apartheid. Those who do not support him accuse him of raising South Africa’s unemployment rates. This has subsequently created an impoverished, undemocratic society that encourages extreme inequalities.

Zuma’s Presidency

Jacob Zuma’s supporters point to the former president’s role in ending apartheid and the sacrifices he made to do so: being imprisoned for 10 years, going into exile in order to best serve the African National Congress (ANC) and finally becoming his nation’s president, all after he had grown up uneducated and impoverished. However, people are re-examining his efforts now that they have accused him of several heinous acts:

  • Many have alleged that Zuma “looted the state’s wealth on a grand scale.”
  • He transformed the ANC into “a vehicle of self-enrichment for many officials.”
  • Furthermore, people have accused him of assassinating rivals who threatened his then newly acquired power and money.
  • Finally, he evaded the South African authorities for years before finally giving himself up.

These acts help explain many public reactions to Zuma’s imprisonment.

Unemployment in South Africa

One of the major criticisms of Jacob Zuma was his unwillingness to address unemployment in South Africa. In 2017, towards the end of Zuma’s presidential term, the unemployment rate in South Africa was 27.7%, an increase from 24.9% since the start of his term. Debt was at an all-time high and businesses were failing. Zuma was unable to lift his country out of the recession that the global financial crash of 2008 spurred. The unemployment rates during his presidency show the push into poverty that many South Africans suffered under his governance. They also exemplify the stark inequalities between the South African public and those in power. Those in power ultimately grew wealthy through investing the country’s money into their own business ventures and lifestyles.

The Aftermath in South Africa

In terms of Zuma’s imprisonment, some South Africans have gone so far as to say that the nine years Zuma was president were “wasted years.” Magnus Heystek, a director and investment strategist, recognized the damage Zuma inflicted, saying that “it will take a stupendous effort by government and private sector to reverse the damage.” He provided a comprehensive list of things South Africa lost between 2009 and 2018 and he included per capita GDP which declined from “8,066 USD per annum in 2011 to 6,268 USD per annum in 2017.” He also includes South Africa’s total debt which stands at approximately 3 trillion rands or around $211 billion. Even more startling is the fact that “Poverty is increasingly visible on every street-corner, in declining car and retail sales, in empty rugby and soccer stadiums, in dwindling golf and bowling memberships. The list is almost endless,” Heystek says.

The Call for Imprisonment

Jacob Zuma’s imprisonment represents a victory for South Africans who believe in democracy and obeying their country’s rule of law. Cyril Ramaphosa, Zuma’s successor, has vowed to “clean up the ANC and the government” while he is in office. His next steps will include building the South African economy back up to where it was before Zuma’s presidency. This is especially important after the COVID-19 further weakened the country’s economy. He will also be working to hold Zuma accountable for bribery and corruption, as well as upholding the notion that South Africa thrives thanks to the rule of law, not because of power and wealth-hungry presidents.

– Grace Manning
Photo: Flickr

Africa Outreach ProjectOn June 26, 2021, actress Charlize Theron held a gathering at Universal Studios during the first showing of the “F9” movie. The event was to promote the Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project. The occasion featured an outdoor party where celebrities auctioned donations for the foundation. There was also a question and answer session with the actors and producers of the new “Fast and Furious” movie, including Charlize Theron, Vin Diesel, Jordana Brewster, and the film director, Justin Lin. The gala was just one of the ways Theron utilizes her celebrity platform to aid South Africans suffering from HIV.

The Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project

Theron created the Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project in 2007. The project prevents the spread of HIV by aiding in the healthcare and education of young people. The project’s primary goal is to allow young Africans to have promising futures free from disease and give them an equal chance at life. To further this commitment, the initiative assists other African firms in helping address societal needs by providing university grants to young Africans.

Many solutions exist in the fight against the spread of HIV in South Africa, including education. South African women are less probable to get HIV if they complete university. In this way, providing young people with access to quality education intertwines with the fight against HIV. Accordingly, Theron’s gala directed the donations to helping South Africans receive the necessary education to remain healthy and live productive and fulfilling lives.

The Need for Aid

According to the Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project, 67% of people infected with HIV reside in South Africa. The organization projects that 26 million people in the area currently live with HIV. In addition, almost 4,600 South Africans are diagnosed with HIV per week. Moreover, South Africa “represents less than 1% of the world’s population” but constitutes 20% of those infected with HIV worldwide.

The Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project also states that education in South Africa is plagued with challenges such as school abandonment and limited accessibility to school supplies. As a result, citizens have a tough time finishing school. In fact, nearly 50% of South Africans who begin college leave prior to finishing their studies.

Furthermore, many young students experience the burdens of absent teachers, substance abuse, sexual abuse and early pregnancy on top of being impoverished. Consequently, less than half of students who start the first grade end up graduating from 12th grade. In addition, a lower percentage of these young students are eligible for college. As such, the youth cannot contribute to the region’s economic development, which keeps the region impoverished.

Theron’s 2020 Fundraiser

In August 2020, Theron held a fundraising party similar to this year’s June 2021 gala. The 2020 fundraiser featured a drive-in screening of “Mad Max: Fury Road.” Once again, the proceeds went toward the Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project. Theron held the event in the parking lot of the Grove Mall in Los Angeles. However, the party only allowed 90 vehicles due to COVID-19 guidelines and cost $1,000 for two individuals. Attendants remained in their cars and listened in to “the night’s audio” by tuning into 89.1 FM.

Theron has used her celebrity platform to raise awareness about successful approaches to stop the spread of HIV and safeguard those already infected with it. The star’s strategy to encourage donations is very creative and garners much-needed support in the fight against HIV. Through more galas or other creative fundraising avenues, the Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project will be able to sustain the valuable aid it provides to young Africans by improving access to education and decreasing the risk of HIV.

Jannique McDonald
Photo: Flickr

FoodForward SASouth Africa is one of the most developed African countries and the continent’s largest stock exchange. However, despite its advanced economy, South Africa still has much work to do to solve its key issues, one of them being food insecurity. According to Statistics South Africa, in 2017, 6.8 million South Africans faced hunger. Although the number of food-insecure populations has plummeted by more than half from 13.5 million in 2002, roughly 11% of the country’s population struggled to put food on the table in 2019. However, a closer look at South Africa reveals that hunger is not a national-level issue but rather a household-level issue. Although the country produces enough food for its citizens, approximately 10 million tonnes of food goes to waste in a year. FoodForward SA aims to alleviate hunger in South Africa by rescuing and redistributing surplus food that would otherwise go to waste.

The FoodForward SA Mission

FoodForward SA is a South African nonprofit that was established in 2009 to alleviate hunger in South Africa by rescuing quality edible food for subsequent redistribution to people in need. FoodForward SA partners with various local beneficiary organizations (BOs) to extend its impact to rural and urban communities. Through these BOs, the organization widens the scope of its impact to large numbers of vulnerable South Africans, which it would otherwise not reach if it were acting alone.

The FoodShare Innovation

Before 2018, FoodForwad SA relied on a complex logistics chain to gather, categorize, store surplus food from donor agencies and redistribute the food to beneficiary organizations. In 2018, however, this ended with the organization’s innovation, “FoodShare,” a cyber platform to help save quality food that would otherwise end up in landfills by virtually connecting food outlets with beneficiary organizations, consequently promoting a smoother redistribution process. In addition to connecting donors and beneficiaries, FoodShare also allows for easy inventory optimization, tonnage measurement and offline monitoring and evaluation, among other features.

Breakfast Program

About nine years ago, FoodForward SA embarked on a partnership with Kellogg’s, a U.S. multinational food manufacturing company. The Kellogg’s Breakfast for Better Days Programme is a school feeding initiative dedicated to providing breakfast to vulnerable primary and secondary school children in South Africa. In 2020, the program covered the South African provinces of Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and both the Eastern and Western Cape, reaching roughly 37,000 children. The collaborative efforts of FoodForward SA and Kellogg’s help the initiative expand its reach and impact. In 2021, Kellogg’s hopes to extend the program’s impact to more vulnerable areas in South Africa.

Mobile Rural Depot Programme

FoodFoward SA’s Mobile Rural Depot Programme was started in 2019 to alleviate hunger in South Africa by making quality surplus food accessible to more than 25 identified and underserved rural communities. FoodForward SA deploys trucks loaded with food supplies to each depot region to deliver food to communities. BOs from neighboring communities subsequently gather to collect and redistribute the food. Following the delivery, empty trucks stop by the areas’ farms to stockpile surplus agricultural supplies, which are taken back to a warehouse.

COVID-19’s Impact: A Blessing in Disguise

Whereas the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has exerted a toll on food banks globally, FoodForward SA has a different story. In an interview with The Borgen Project, Deidre Adams, the nonprofit’s fund development manager, discussed FoodForward SA’s immediate action during COVID-19 and its resulting success.

Adams explains that the COVID-19 pandemic required the organization to rapidly scale its operations to meet increasing food insecurity. The managing director of FoodForward SA, Andy Du Plessis, put out a food security appeal of R50,000 in order to extend its scale of food aid. The R50 million appeal sparked an influx of donations from local and international donors, totaling R90 million, almost doubling the initial target.

“By not only reaching but exceeding our appeal target, we have been able to scale rapidly so that currently, and within nine months only, we are feeding around 475,000 people daily,” Adams says. Through its Mobile Rural Depot (MRD) Programme alone, FoodForward SA currently reaches 62,000 vulnerable people in rural communities disproportionately affected by the pandemic.

Future Prospects

Despite FoodForward SA’s remarkable success, the organization never stops searching for innovative ways to alleviate hunger in South Africa by reaching as many vulnerable communities as possible and seeking more financial support to reach all of the country’s nine provinces. In response to whether the organization’s progress provides hope of attaining its vision, “a South Africa without hunger,” Adams remarked that connecting the world of surplus to the world of need can indeed eradicate hunger in South Africa.

By 2024, FoodForward SA hopes to have expanded the number of beneficiaries to one million people. “As we expand our operations to reach one million people, we would like to call on food supply chain role players to donate their surplus food to FoodForward SA, which allows them to save on dumping costs,” Adams says.

During the 2020/2021 fiscal year alone, the organization issued 29 million meals. To ensure that its resources reach the intended beneficiaries, the organization pays unannounced monitoring and evaluation visits to its beneficiary organizations once a quarter. Although from the current state affairs, it is indubitable that South Africa still has a steep hill to climb to achieve zero hunger, FoodForward SA’s exceptional work promises rewarding outcomes in due time.

– Mbabazi Divine
Photo: Courtesy of FoodForward SA

Looting in South AfricaIn early July 2021, South Africa experienced deadly riots and mass-scale looting in response to the arrest of former President Jacob Zuma. The Wall Street Journal reported on July 16, 2021, that at least 212 people have lost their lives, with thousands arrested during the civil unrest. Authorities dispatched the South African military to combat the violence and destruction. The riots were particularly intense in the KwaZulu-Natal province where Zuma’s ethnic group, the Zulus, makes up 80% of the population. COVID-19 caused the South African economy to enter a recession in 2020, putting the country in a vulnerable economic state. The recent looting has not only caused more damage to the already vulnerable economy but has also led to food and fuel shortages, exacerbating poverty in affected areas.

Origins of the Riots

Jacob Zuma was arrested on July 7, 2021, after refusing to testify in court on alleged corruption in the African National Congress. The former president led the country from 2009 until his resignation in 2018 under the pressure of corruption allegations. The African National Congress (ANC) has been in power every year since the election of Nelson Mandela in 1994. However, the political party’s support waned over the last two decades. The response to Zuma’s arrest reveals the factionalization within the ANC as well as the amount of support the former president still commands. Current President Cyril Ramaphosa made the decision to send in the military to quell the riots after the South African Police Services struggled to do so.

Rioting Exacerbates Poverty

The end of apartheid did not usher in an era of equality in South Africa. South Africa consistently ranked as one of the most unequal countries in the 21st century, with a Gini coefficient of 0.63 in 2015. According to the World Bank, “High inequality is perpetuated by a legacy of exclusion and the nature of economic growth, which is not pro-poor and does not generate sufficient jobs.” The recent looting in South Africa highlights the desperation that many impoverished South Africans face and the zero-sum nature of inequality’s violent outcomes.

The rioting disrupted supply chains and caused food and fuel shortages that hurt impoverished South Africans. Distributors and suppliers halted operations in fear of the violence, destruction and theft arising from the riots. Many supermarkets and grocery stores were emptied by looters, forcing stores to close their doors and leaving many South Africans without a source of food. In some suburbs, no stores were operational at all.

Even the South African National Blood Services facility was not spared as looters ransacked the Queensmead Mall center on live television. The riots forced a number of facilities in the Kwazulu-Natal province to close, impacting the “movement of blood and samples to SANBS processing and testing facilities, among other functions of the blood bank.”

Looters went as far as ransacking humanitarian aid organizations such as Food Forward SA. The organization, which provides food aid to vulnerable South Africans, had to temporarily close, leaving 125,000 vulnerable people without food. Still reeling from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the South African economy now faces another setback due to the recent political riots.

The Future of South African Civic Society

Like many countries around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic accentuated South Africa’s social cleavages. As a country with an apartheid history, racial and ethnic tensions were also apparent in the riots and looting. Community militias, private security contractors and even citizens themselves have taken up arms against the looters to protect their lives, businesses and property.

While the recent riots display the instability of South Africa, the unrest has also highlighted the humanity still present. The riots, lasting roughly a week, have since died down. South Africans of all backgrounds have been working around the clock to clean up the streets and repair the destruction caused by the riots. Activists have taken to social media to organize volunteers to repair communities and heal South African civic society. The hashtag #CleanUpSA has gained traction on Twitter as the country comes together to rebuild in the wake of violence.

Organizations such as Gift of the Givers are working to provide food parcels to areas impacted by food shortages. Give of the Givers also provided food packages to health workers so that they “could concentrate on their patients and not stand in long queues to access groceries.”

With reparation and restoration efforts underway, South Africans stand as a united front to recover and rebuild in the aftermath of the riots and looting in South Africa.

Will Pease
Photo: Flickr

Vaccinating Rural Communities
There are logistical differences between distributing vaccines to heavily populated urban centers and poorer outlying areas. These differences require attention to ensure equitable distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine. Vaccinating rural communities, which are the most vulnerable to COVID-19, requires special attention. 

The Geographic Information System (GIS) is a tool for vaccinating rural communities to ensure equitable distribution. This system of maps allows civic authorities to access a comprehensive source of data and translate it into actionable information on the optimal places for setting up relief operations of any kind.

Information on socioeconomic conditions combined with an overlay of physical terrain provides the tools for determining who is most in need of immunization. This ensures that vaccine site planners make the most of a decentralized distribution plan when deciding how to provide for rural areas efficiently.

What Is It?

It is best to view GIS as a method of overlapping different types of data on a given location so that an interested party can view it in light of whatever context they might need. GIS users can filter out whatever data they do not find relevant to their task.

National Geographic adds that the system operates through entering relevant information such as topography and housing distribution in a process called “data capture.” This stores information in snapshots that can inform viewers of how recent their data is and illustrate changes through certain date ranges.

These data stem from multiple sources, involving images from an aerial scan and/or records of human activity. So, the value of GIS in vaccinating rural communities stems from the clear picture it offers distributors on where they can have the most impact. Pandemic frontline workers can make informed decisions wherever they are by pulling up relevant data from their maps on areas of interest.

Who Does It Help?

GIS, with its ability to keep people up-to-date on the condition of areas in need, provides the means to supplement efforts with additional pre-planning. Aside from working around the capacity of available healthcare centers by choosing areas with sufficient personnel and space for vaccinating rural communities, there are more benefits of GIS. These include:

  1. Once GIS creates fairness in planning for nationwide immunity, its information on demographics helps at managing vaccine distribution by relative need based on their vulnerability to COVID-19. On a broad scale, this can mean selecting a cluster of people based on relatively low access to healthcare or a high concentration of infirmities. On a smaller scale, this might involve isolating demographic groups such as the homeless or discriminated minorities.
  2. Keeping track of vaccine stockpiles becomes more important when a larger distribution range requires storing vaccines closer to rural areas. In cases where a country is using vaccines that require two doses, timely delivery is crucial. By storing vaccines in the countryside, distributors find a median between shortening the logistical tail and allowing for the distance necessary for reaching impoverished areas without such hospitals.

Who Is Using GIS?

South Africa quickly adopted GIS as a means of vaccinating rural communities in situations where income gaps between different municipalities impacted travel times to the nearest hospital.

“Reaching South Africans in remote places has begun using mobile teams and mobile pharmacies to ensure that the vaccination program covers ‘the last mile,’” writes Luis Monzon on work the South African government did with volunteers from health NGO Right to Care. Right To Care’s mobile pharmacies regularly use their access to digital maps for tasks as routine as locating the optimal route to their destinations.

An earlier success story is that of Nigeria’s experience using GIS in its efforts to eradicate polio when it was discovered that hand-drawn maps did not accurately reflect resources on the ground. This realization and the use of geospatial data served as the basis for fine-tuning the Nigerian government’s strategy. In having the foundation for a distribution strategy before receiving 16 million doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca’s vaccine, government projections indicate a 40% immunization rate by the end of 2021.

Equal Opportunity Efficiency

Widespread adoption of GIS ensures that a country’s disaster response strategy can protect even the most remote areas from the destabilizing influence of a national crisis. Future applications of this technology likewise stand to benefit as its pool of experienced users broadens.

Whether the responsibility of vaccinating rural communities is in response to a national health crisis or other disruption to normalcy, GIS ensures the fastest possible response in mitigating the impact of a disaster. Expanding access to such comprehensive data serves as a further step in building a self-sufficient network for disaster-preparedness beyond the scope of a pandemic.

– Samuel Katz
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in South Africa
Food insecurity, as Health Affairs defines it, is “a condition in which households lack access to adequate food because of limited money or other resources.” Hunger, put more simply, is a feeling of “weakness caused by lack of food, coupled with the desire to eat.” Of the approximately 6.5 million people in South Africa, a staggering 11% suffer from hunger. Here is everything you need to know about hunger in South Africa.

Root Causes

Major causes of hunger and food insecurity in South Africa relate to several factors including conflict and instability, the changing climate, poverty and an increasing population. These sources are significant in understanding everything you need to know about hunger in South Africa.

According to World Hunger, the prominence of violence leads to limited employment opportunities, a downfall in imported and exported goods and the destruction of fertile land that would be otherwise used for crop growth. Food war, as another example, has the definition of “the deliberate use of hunger as a weapon or hunger suffered as a consequence of armed conflict.” This prevents citizens from having access to the food they need to thrive when they live in an unstable or conflict-ridden area.

Lack of Good Food

Impoverished areas prevent their inhabitants from living a nourished, healthy lifestyle when they are unable to access sufficient food. The cyclical nature of such poverty impacts generations to come. Children are often born undernourished, therefore inhibiting potential productivity at school and work.

Poverty generally impacts rural South African areas more than urban areas, and this is due to arid lands making it difficult to grow usable crops and a lack of goods that the South African government imported. The need to find a way to deliver food to those in remote, rural areas remains prevalent.

The climate crisis has had and continues to have a significant impact on hunger. Deforestation destroys fertile land, floods destroy homes and towns. Widespread drought kills crops and leaves families starving and forced to drink unclean water. Diseases run rampant across the country. For example, global warming has caused a significant increase in malaria cases, as well as other major diseases such as cholera and the avian flu.

From 2019 to 2020, the population of South Africa changed from roughly 58 million people to 59 million people. This large increase in population size, in turn, decreases the income per capita and can cause families to struggle to feed their children. With more children being born per family, the income needed to support these children increases as well. However, the salary of the breadwinners in the family remains the same. This can cause families to become impoverished.

The COVID-19 Pandemic and Hunger in South Africa

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated hunger in South Africa. According to Ipsos, most South Africans have seen an overwhelmingly negative effect on their income during the pandemic. Large numbers of them are suffering from long-term hunger and many have lost their jobs.

Hunger ratios in South Africa are on an upward trajectory after the start of COVID-19. Over 23% of South African households experienced hunger last summer, and 70% of households were reliant on government grants. Additionally, unemployment rates are at a record high of 32.8%, up 2% since the start of the pandemic.

Solutions and Next Steps

COVID-19 remains a threat throughout the world and impacts impoverished areas in particular. NGOs fear that a drop in essential funding and support may inhibit their ability to help those most in need. NGO Pulse provides a comprehensive list of organizations focusing on the impact of COVID-19. This is on South African families for businesses or individuals to support in order for them to continue to work. Several of these NGOs are stepping up during the pandemic to address the increase of widespread hunger in South Africa.

Founded in 1945, the ACFS Community Education and Feeding Scheme has centers scattered across South Africa which feed children who are undernourished. These centers also offer programs such as computer skills to family members and provide support for the economically unstable. Its mission is to ensure South African children receive food and proper care through the help of fellow South Africans.

By July 2020, ACFS had provided food to 24,000 households in South Africa. This is an increase of roughly 10,000 since the start of the pandemic. The pandemic proved to be a unique challenge. However, ACFS launched three new teenage girl programs and opened a second toy library.

Feed South Africa

Feed SA aims to feed both the stomachs and the minds of impoverished South Africans, and the NGO has put together an action plan specifically for those who experienced the most impact from COVID-19 in South Africa. This plan calls upon the national and international community for donations. This funds programs such as Back a Pupil, which became launched during the height of the pandemic. This program distributes educational packs full of school supplies such as worksheets and writing utensils. The organization provides not only monthly food deliveries but also other goods families may need, such as First Aid kits.

Progress is happening. Both national and international NGOs fight to end and educate the public on hunger in South Africa. Food insecurity remains prevalent in many areas and demands continued attention.

Grace Manning
Photo: Flickr