South Africa's national government has comprehensively failed to feed the poor, Jeremy Seekings argues in a new online article first published on GroundUp. Jeremy shows that emergency feeding schemes have not filled the gap left by the suspension of the national school feeding programme. Moreover, national government has played only a minor part in the distribution of food parcels and emergency schemes providing meals. Civil society has played the leading role, with assistance from provincial and local government.
In another article, Jeremy Seekings examines the challenge facing the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) in delivering the new emergency covid-19 grant. The president announced this grant four weeks ago, and SASSA undertook to begin payments last Friday. But the challenges of setting up processes for applications, the verification and approval of these applications and then the payment to approved claimants are massive.
In an article in the Daily Maverick, Elena Moore highlights how the State’s adoption of a R500 supplement per primary caregiver may exacerbate tensions when there are multiple co-caregivers. Despite the welcome relief for many primary caregivers, especially those who have one child — this relief comes with a significant real and social cost when there are multiple children and multiple co-caregivers. For more see: Covid-19 emergency child support grants need flexibility to accommodate fluid caregiving
In this article, Rebecca Hodes (director of ASRU) recounts the recent comments by US President Donald Trump on the prospective uses of disinfectants, including by 'injection inside', to treat or prevent COVID-19. Through the lens of medical history, Hodes explores the past and present of toxic 'cures', both globally and in South Africa. She focuses on the history of household detergents to end unwanted pregnancies, and documents the ways in which the corporations that manufacture these chemicals have profited from their poisonous repurposing. Hodes also questions the role of political leaders in promoting dangerous curative claims, at critical junctures in pandemic histories. She focuses on the case of 'Virodene', in which South Africa's former Minister of Health, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, championed a toxic drug that was touted as an AIDS treatment, violating bioethical protocols and championing the experimentation of the drug on people with AIDS. Hodes concludes her article by stating: The COVID-19 pandemic is a new catastrophe, but some of its features are familiar, including the political and popular responses it has evoked. In remembering our mistakes, facing up to their legacies in the present, and scrutinising and refuting dangerous claims for the future, there is hope for improving public health in the wake of COVID-19.'
Lesley Gittings was awarded a scholarship to attend the 2020 International AIDS Conference (virtual) to present findings from an ASRU study, led by Dr Rebecca Hodes. She will present findings from a pictogram developed to support adolescents and young people living with HIV to adhere to ART. Her abstract, entitled 'Pill-takers and superheroes: Image preferences for an antiretroviral therapy adherence pictogram among young people living with HIV' is co-authored by colleagues at the University of Cape Town, Rhodes and Oxford. Stay tuned for more findings!
The President of South Africa announced on 21 April a new emergency Covid-19 grant to be paid to millions of South Africans. In a new article on GroundUp, Jeremy Seekings, Lena Gronbach and Nicoli Nattrass explain how the new grant can be implemented quickly, learning from the experience of neighbouring Namibia which is already rolling out its Emergency Income Grant. In Namibia, one in five people had applied for the grant and one in three of them had received a payment within one week of the grant being announced! Crucially, there is no means-test, with applications verified through comparison with the existing taxpayer and social grant databases. South Africa can do likewise.