Civil unrest and a likely increase in crime are brewing if South Africa does not solve the food security problems already emerging, says the Institute of Risk Management South Africa (IRMSA).
The IRMSA COVID-19 Risk Think Tank highlighted these risks based on risk data modelling and taking into account the unique disparities of South Africa.
“It is not meant to spread panic or trigger political narratives,” warns IRMSA CEO Gillian le Cordeur. “It is merely what risk managers do; they use all the information available to predict with as much accuracy as possible future scenarios and recommend solutions to treat the identified risks.”
Both these risks – if left untreated – have the potential to result in riots, looting, damage to property and harm to people as hunger, starvation and desperation rise on the back of unemployment, loss of income and pre-existing poverty.
“The potential for civil unrest is less about the availability of sufficient food and more about the distribution of the available food while adhering to the parameters of the lockdown,” explains Le Cordeur. “Even if the lockdown period is not extended, the impact of the initial 21 days is already predicted to have a major impact on food security for millions of South Africans over the next six months.”
Formal supply chains are robust enough to satisfy the needs of urban areas but many rural areas rely on an informal distribution network that can now no longer operate. There might therefore come a time that even those that want to comply simply can’t because they don’t have money for or access to food and essential hygiene items.
According to IRMSA the treatment of this risk is the immediate support of a network in South Africa that has an established national footprint, has a track record of trusted performance, and can scale as soon as funds are made available. This will ensure that a national effort – in support of Government’s immediate focus on preventing the spread of COVID-19 – is well coordinated to offer maximum assistance to vulnerable communities while minimising the duplication of efforts.
“Once we identified this risk treatment we started the search for an organisation that satisfies this list of seemingly impossible criteria,” says Le Cordeur. “We were relieved to find FoodForward SA; a food redistribution non-profit organisation that has been perfecting their operations since 2003.”
FoodForward SA redistributes edible surplus food products and operates as part of the international Global Foodbank Network (GFN). The organisation has an established national distribution footprint enabled by its verified beneficiary network of over 670 charities that serve over 255 000 people daily across the country.
“We have obtained a permit to operate as an essential service during the lockdown period,” says Andy du Plessis, Managing Director of FoodForward SA. “Our beneficiaries usually receive food and non-food groceries from us on a monthly basis; but we’ve already seen this frequency increase to every two weeks.”
“At the moment the lockdown only allows us to prioritise facilities like shelters, aged care facilities, the disabled, and other at-risk individuals who require much-needed food relief.”
“To add currently underserved provinces and rural communities to our efforts we need just over R50 million as an immediate calculation,” says Du Plessis. “For the sake of transparency and accountability this calculation is available on https://foodforwardsa.org/.”
While the major retailers in SA are already part of the FoodForward SA network, Du Plessis says that SA producers of food items and manufacturers of essential non-food items now need to show South Africans that they care enough to donate products for the next four to six months.
Regular audits by independent as well as partner-appointed providers ensure that the FoodForward SA warehouse storage facilities, supply and cold chain operations, logistics management and transport operations adhere to the strictest of food safety standards.
Before the COVID-19 crisis FoodForward SA had a strategic plan to establish its operations in Limpopo, Mpumalanga and the Northern Cape, as well as strengthen its operations in remote rural areas through FoodForward SA Mobile Rural Depots. The lockdown creates an urgent and immediate need for funds to bring these plans forward as quickly as possible.
“We are ready to serve South Africa as best we can,” says Du Plessis, “but we can only scale up if the projected R50 million can reach us within the next week, and sustained support over the next six months until the threat of civil unrest subsides.”
“In short, we need more food and we need more funds … and we need it NOW.”
CONTRIBUTION OPPORTUNITIES TO KEEP SOUTH AFRICA SAFE:
EDITORS NOTE: IRMSA has reviewed the necessary legal and financial documentation to verify the legitimacy of the intent and operations of Food Forward SA. IRMSA has no stake or share in FoodForward SA or any of its partners and/or beneficiaries. The intent of IRMSA is to proactively highlight to South African individuals, corporates and public sector the potential risk of civil unrest and the recommended treatment of that risk.
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