Maverick Citizen

LIFE ON THE EDGE

Eastern Cape faces of hunger — one family’s struggle to survive

A 10-year-old boy eats a meagre meal in Gxulu locality, Libode, Eastern Cape. (Photo: Hoseya Jubase)

While hungry children in the Eastern Cape get sick, miss school and live in appalling conditions, thousands of families have missed out on emergency food parcels after a contract was awarded to a business that failed to distribute aid in time. Maverick Citizen photographer Hoseya Jubase visited such a family to record their daily struggle to survive.

Last week Minister of Social Development Lindiwe Zulu said in a written response to a parliamentary question that a “submission” was being prepared in the form of a motivation to the provincial treasury for the approval of additional allocation of funding to the Social Relief of Distress programme. 

This is a special and most urgent intervention to enable 62,954 beneficiary family households to have access to food and to address immediate needs of hunger, child poverty and malnutrition among poor and vulnerable Eastern Cape families which mostly fall under the category of households without income.

eastern cape rondavel study
From left: A 10-year-old-boy, 13-year-old girl and 14-year-old boy study in their crumbling rondavel home in Gxulu locality, Libode, Eastern Cape. (Photo: Hoseya Jubase)

The Eastern Cape Department of Social Development failed to distribute R134-million in aid last year. This was rolled over to the present financial year.  

Yet the MEC for Social Development, Siphokazi Lusithi, is widely advertising a new child protection campaign urging people to wear green ribbons before Child Protection Week that begins on 29 May.

eastern cape hunger meal
Thina Vaphi (27), prepares a meal. Entering the door on returning from school is a boy (14) hoping for decent food. On the chair is Zanovuyo Nondonga (25), in Gxulu locality, Libode in the Eastern Cape. (Photo: Hoseya Jubase)

The numbers provided by Zulu are devastating: The actual distribution of food parcels to beneficiaries commenced only on 2 March 2022. By 28 March 2022, just 22,787 beneficiaries were able to receive food parcels, constituting 26% of the total target of 85,741 beneficiary households. This is attributed to various factors, in addition to the stringent time frames related to “service provider challenges” on the capacity to deliver as expected, including unnecessary demands made by local truck drivers in the various local municipalities.

The spokesperson for the Department of Social Development, Mzukisi Solani, has refused to answer questions on this issue for weeks. The Department has also not published the tender register for this specific bid to make the name of the winning bidder public.

eastern cape hunger poverty gxulu
Two boys of 10 and 14 in their rondavel after returning from school in Gxulu locality, Libode in the Eastern Cape. The kids are crying out for help. (Photo: Hoseya Jubase)

Meanwhile, hundreds of families are living in dire circumstances.

This is one of their stories. A family of brothers and sisters live in the Gxulu locality in Libode in the Eastern Cape. Gxulu falls under the Nyandeni Municipality. 

eastern cape hunger rondavel
The rondavel where desperately poor children live in Libode in the Eastern Cape. (Photo: Hoseya Jubase)

The older siblings, in a family living in desperate poverty, are Zanovuyo Nondonga (25) and Thina Vaphi (27). They say their only wish is to see their family, especially the children, sleeping in safe, dignified houses and one day eating healthy food.

Zanovuyo said their rondavel was their only shelter and water came in from the floor when it rained. 

“We are getting sick every time because of this wet floor. This rondavel is wet from January to December and we only breathe well in August because there is no rain,” he said.

eastern cape hunger libode
Tholeka Nondonga shows the last bit of food for the family. (Photo: Hoseya Jubase).

“The situation was worse in the last few weeks during heavy rain, it was bad and everyone was sick here with flu.”

The three children, who are attending school, include a 13-year-old girl who is in Grade 7, a 10-year-old boy in Grade 4 and a boy of 14 in Grade 8. 

Zanovuyo said he fears the kids will drop out of school because of hunger.

“If this situation does not change, the children will end up dropping out of school. We have no money.”

“What I love about the young children is that they enjoy reading their books. They always encourage each other to work hard and sometimes I shed tears because I am worried that maybe if things are not changing they will drop out of the school,” Zanovuyo said.

eastern cape hunger girl
A 13-year-old girl sleeps in her home at Gxulu locality in Libode in the Eastern Cape. She did not attend school after suffering from a temperature. (Photo: Hoseya Jubase)

“Even the 13-year-old girl who did not go to school today because she was sick, she was reading her books, doing school work, and that pains me a lot because they enjoy school. This environment is not good for them. I am an example. I dropped out of school because of financial constraints at home,” he said.

Thina Vaphi (27) said besides water inside the rondavel, they also had almost no food:

“We are eating what is available on the day. We are hustling every day to make sure the kids have something to eat before and after school.”

eastern cape hunger gxulu
Tholeka Nondonga fetches water from the nearby river in Gxulu locality, Libode in the Eastern Cape. (Photo: Hoseya Jubase)

She said their only wish was to see their family living a life like other families: “At least if we can get a RDP house for the safety of the kids it would be better because they are not right at all now. This is the only home we have.”

Tholeka Nondonga (32) applied for an RDP house in 2020.

“At the time I was told that we are number 74 on the list, but we are still waiting even though others have received their houses,” she said.

Tholeka said they had received reports that they were not allocated an RDP house because they had not attended meetings in the village. She said the shortage of food was another challenge which frustrated them as the older sisters and brothers, because the young children sometimes both slept and go to school on an empty stomach. DM/MC

 

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  • A food parcel costs around R500. For bigger households it may not last a month, but in all cases it makes a big difference. To provide a reference point for that amount, one can build a flag pole for R22 million or feed 3500 households for a year.

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