AS SOUTH Africa passes the 300,000 Covid-19 infection rate this week, the Eastern Cape Province health system has collapsed, and the social-development programme of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, Hope Africa, says that it has no funds left to help vulnerable communities that are dependent on the aid.
The CEO of Hope Africa, Canon Delene Mark, said on Wednesday: “Our biggest challenge is that we, as the Church, don’t have enough funding to reach out to all the needs. The distances are vast, and much of the area is rural. We have run out of funds to continue sending food vouchers. Churches have also been saying that there is less food available to continue feeding during the pandemic.”
Hope AfricaFood parcels organised by Hope Africa
The economic heartland of the country, the province of Gauteng, is the current Covid-19 hotspot, and has more than one third of the country’s infections. In the rural Eastern Cape, however, where there were underlying pre-pandemic shortages of water, food, housing, and basic infrastructure, coupled with a high unemployment rate and rampant corruption, the health system has collapsed.
The Dean of Health Sciences at Nelson Mandela University, Professor Lungile Pepeta, warned two weeks ago that a shortage of nurses and doctors, and the failure of a co-ordinated response by the health services, meant that the province was not equipped for a pandemic. The Archbishop of Cape Town, the Most Revd Thabo Makgoba, said that the situation in the Eastern Cape was “devastating.”
Hope Africa runs more than 20 community feeding schemes in the Eastern Cape, which feed about 35,000 people daily, and supply 700 households with food vouchers.
The Anglican Church has strong ties to the Eastern Cape: the diocese of Makhanda, formerly Grahamstown, was established in 1853. The Dean of St Michael and St George’s Cathedral, Makhanda, the Very Revd Andrew Hunter, said: “As soon as the Covid-19 lockdown started, in March, we got requests from the broader community for help, and there has been a phenomenal response to our cathedral’s Covid Care Fund.” It enables the cathedral to distribute food vouchers and 530 food parcels every fortnight.
Hope Africa also supplies water to affected communities such as Sterkspruit and Makhanda. “Water is a problem, as the Government has water shortages, and quite often the taps run dry,” Canon Mark said. There are reports this week of protests as anger grows in rural areas of the Eastern Cape at the failure of municipalities to provide a regular, clean supply of water during the pandemic.