Lockdown extension unlocks worries

Doreen Saunders has concerns over how she will make it through the extended nationwide lockdown.

The two week extension to the nationwide lockdown has caused some major uncertainty among Hangberg families struggling to put food on the table.

Due to the rapid increase in the number of Covid-19 cases, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced last week that the lockdown period, which should have ended at midnight on Thursday April 16, would continue until the end of the month.

For Hangberg’s Doreen Saunders, it’s going to be an uphill battle to try and get through the lockdown period while seeing to her two children and grandchildren in her one-bedroom home.

“This lockdown has made things very difficult for me and my family. We are at home every day and we need to see to certain things, we must eat. How do we support ourselves for this long with the money we earn?” she asked.

“Some of us do not even earn anything.”

Ms Saunders also questioned the food parcel distribution process, claiming that many Hangberg residents were not benefiting.

“I am not sure if these people are moving around at night so that we cannot notice them, but there are people getting and then there are people not getting. How can my neighbour receive a food parcel, but her neighbour doesn’t receive anything?

“It does not sound right, because the president said we’re all in this together,” said Ms Saunders, who has been collecting and distributing food and clothing to the needy for the past 30 years.

Ms Saunders usually buys marshmallow eggs to hand out to children over the Easter weekend, but this year the lockdown put an end to that.

“The children come knocking at my door, asking for the marshmallows, but I cannot afford it this year, because I must think how I’m going to make it through. These politicians’ cupboards and fridges are full of food, so they can go through lockdown like it’s nothing,” Ms Saunders said.

Virginia da Silva, who lives with her family of five in a one-bedroom wendy house, doesn’t know where their next meal will come from. “This is extremely hard on us. The president locked us down for two more weeks, but we are already out of food and we have another two weeks to go,” she said.

Ms Da Silva was also frustrated with the number of people walking around in the community, ignoring lockdown regulations.

She feels that if everybody adhered to the regulations, the lockdown might have been lifted and her children would have been able to go out and look for work.

“They just have to sit here and struggle with us. This is really not easy and people can say they understand, but until you have lived in our conditions, only then will people understand,” said Ms Da Silva.

Looking visibly concerned, she told Sentinel News she had recently taken on the task of caring for her disabled brother-in-law, who is confined to a wheelchair.

“He must also eat every day. My children must eat. I must eat and we just have to make things work, because times are very bad right now,” she added.

The newly-formed Hout Bay Community Action Network (CAN) distributes about 250 food parcels in Hangberg daily, as well as 300 bags of vegetables. Parcels include maize, flour, rice, fish oil, salt, tinned food, sugar, tea, powder milk, packets of powdered soup, tomato paste, soap and toothpaste.

Struggling to hold back her tears, Hangberg resident Elma Petersen said she didn’t know where her family would get their next meal.

Ms Petersen only gets a disabled grant of around R1 500, which she has to use to see to her children, food and other priorities.

“It does not last me very long and eventually I find myself going from door to door to look for a piece of bread for my children,” she cried.

“I sometimes don’t even eat, I am just worried about them.”

Ms Petersen said lockdown had made it harder for her to “make a plan” for her family in terms of food or extra finances.

“We had it hard before the lockdown and now things have become just a bit more difficult for all of us. What can we do? We will just have to see it through and hope for the best,” she added.

Community leader, Haneefa Opperman, said there were several families struggling to make it through the first lockdown period and with the extension, there would be more families falling into a similar situation.

She said volunteers were doing all they could to help as there are families in real need of assistance, but they need more sponsors to jump on board to assist.

“The reality is that our people cannot afford it and what must they do as they are already running out of food?”

She added: “People in our community need to be grateful for what they get, because we are putting our lives at risks by going out there to feed others.”

Alene Edson, who works under the Hout Bay CAN banner, said the two-week extension had created “extreme stress and anxiety” in the Hangberg community.

She said the demand for food was on the rise, but the organisation was doing all it could to meet the essential needs of the communities they serve.

“Our people are fearing starvation, knowing they cannot go work and feed their families. The fear of not having is surely impacting on their mental health and well-being. When you live from hand to mouth on a normal day, it is already a challenge.

“So when there’s nothing in the hand, there’s surely nothing to eat. It is normal for our community to go to the neighbour for something to add to the pot but if you and the neighbour both don’t have, it is a sad and cold reality,” Ms Edson said.

She said Hout Bay CAN would continue working closely with local NGOs in the community.

“As funds and donations come in, we will distribute between Hangberg and IY,” Ms Edson said.

“We are trying our best to reach as many families as possible and we ask the community to please be patient as we navigate this very unfamiliar territory called Covid-19.”