Solidarity Fund raises R2.6bn, but more needed

Homeless men eat breakfast at a homeless shelter in the Municipal hall in Lyttelton on day-8 of the 21 day national lockdown.(Photo: EPA-EFE/KIM LUDBROOK)

The Solidarity Fund, started to raise money to combat the Covid-19 pandemic, has received pledges of R2.6 billion in its first month — with R1.6 billion already in the bank.

More than 75,000 people have pledged money to the Solidarity Fund — with individual donations ranging from R2 to more than R1 million. Fund interim CEO Nomkhita Nqweni said on Thursday that the R2.6 billion raised so far was “a drop in the ocean” of need, but added that the initiative’s focus on health and humanitarian interventions should have a meaningful impact.

More than a thousand companies have also contributed to the fund or signalled their intention to do so. Priority areas for spending the money include protective gear for health professionals and delivery of food to distressed households, in partnership with NGOs and faith-based groups.

South Africans are opening their hearts and wallets.

“It is hard to believe that this is an organisation that is only one month old … Whilst the amount raised is commendable, especially given the time period, and sounds like a lot, I think it’s important to note that, against the scale of the challenges we face, it is still a drop in the ocean,” said Nqweni.

A Solidarity Campaign has been launched on media platforms, including a messaging drive on 15 radio stations in the 11 official languages in all nine provinces to promote physical distancing, regular hand washing and other measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Three oversight subcommittees ensure the money is disbursed in a transparent manner and reaches its intended targets.

Multinational firm PwC has been appointed as the external auditor on a pro-bono basis. From next week, a list of contributions will be published on the fund’s website in the interests of transparency.

At a Thursday media briefing, more than one speaker said the fund should be viewed as “a rapid response vehicle”that quickly targets effective interventions.

Jonathan Bloomberg, the lead on healthcare interventions, said the fund had procured about 21 million masks, hundreds of thousands of hand sanitisers, gloves and related equipment, as well as 200 ventilators. Some of these items are in the country while others will arrive in the next week or two. All of this is being subjected to rigorous quality checks.

Importantly, the fund has also financed test kits so that 400,000 tests can be conducted over the next few weeks.

Bloomberg also said there was a “very strong emphasis on local manufacturing” and the fund was expecting a “ramp-up of local production of low and high-tech items”.

“We are pleased that [arms manufacturer] Denel and others are repurposing their manufacturing capabilities to be able to provide equipment like ventilators. The fund would obviously welcome reliable and sustainable domestic production of critical equipment given the huge global demand and this could lead to a long-term sustainable industry emerging in our country,” he said.  

Nicola Galombik, the fund’s lead for humanitarian interventions, said the task has been set of providing emergency relief to more than 250,000 distressed families during the lockdown in the months ahead, including the delivery of food parcels for the most vulnerable people in communities across the country.

Across all interventions and procurements, steps are being taken to ensure suppliers do not take advantage by inflating prices. BM

To find out more about the fund, here is the site: 


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