COVID-19
COVID-19. Photo by pixpoetry on Unsplash

The South African government has been providing food parcels to distressed families and individuals during the COVID-19 nationwide lockdown. However, some of the food parcels have been looted by municipal councillors.

Now a new study suggests that some poor people didn’t have money to buy food during the lockdown.

To curb the spread of COVID-19, the country imposed a 21-day lockdown that has since been extended by two weeks to the end of April. However, on Thursday President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a five-level plan to ease lockdowns and a R500 billion stimulus package.

Priscilla Reddy, a professor at Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), says “24% of participants” in the study had no money to buy food during the lockdown.

She added that 55% of informal settlements residents had no money for food and about two-thirds were from the townships.

The survey was conducted in two waves.  The first, conducted from 27-31 March looked primarily at awareness levels and knowledge of the virus.  The second, conducted form 9 April – 16 April, looked primarily at the impact of the lockdown on South Africa.

The survey was conducted on the #datafree Moya Messaging social media platform and reached 19 330  respondents.  The Moyo Messaging platform was chosen because of its large user base of about four million members and one million daily engaged users.

The participants included:

The financial impact of the lockdown

The survey also shows that the lockdown would have a negative financial impact on several people.

Between 45% and 63% of people reported that the lockdown would make it difficult to pay bills, debts, earn income, feed their families and keep their jobs, the survey discovered.

“Additionally, 26% of people reported that they had no money for food.”

Access to alcohol and cigarettes during the lockdown

The survey also shows that cigarettes (11.8%) were more accessible than alcohol (2.5%) during the lockdown.

A quarter of people from informal settlements were able to buy cigarettes during the lockdown.

Other findings

  • The majority of people adhered to the regulations: the results show that 99% either left their homes for food, medicine and social grants or stayed home. Thirty percent (30%) had not left home since the start of lockdown and 62% had left to get food and/or medicine.
  • Contact with people during the lockdown: only 20% of the respondents indicated that they had not left home, 8% had met with more than 50 people.  Fifty-one percent (51%) of people reported that they came into close contact with 10 or more people during the past 7 days when out of their homes.  Fifteen percent (15%) had to use public transport to get to the shops.
  • Access to chronic medication: Approximately 13.2% of the population indicated that their chronic medication was inaccessible during the lockdown.  Approximately 13%-25%  of those living in informal settlements, rural (traditional tribal areas) and farms indicated their chronic medications were not easily accessible.
  • Experience with law enforcement: the overwhelming majority of residents (75%) had no interaction with law enforcement, 14.7%  of the residents indicated that they were treated badly

“As we lift the lockdown, preventive behaviour change messages have to be intensified and South Africans need to be encouraged to take responsibility for their own behaviour. Targeted, tailored and culturally appropriate messages need to promote voluntary behavioural actions (handwashing, social distancing and masks).”

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