By ZWELETHU DLAMINI | 2020-05-03
Despite the alarming rate of local transmission attributed to lack of social distancing, hunger saw over 200 residents of Msunduza cramming their assembly point, queuing to register for food aid.
However, while doing so, they risked exposing themselves to contracting the coronavirus.
These are part of the 301 762 Emaswati that government announced would get food aid.
Both elderly and the young were seen literally scrambling for the food aid.
Community health motivators and care-givers have reportedly registered over 1 200 people who are in need of food aid from Msunduza chiefdom which has six communities. These are: Cooperation, Mncitsini, Gobholo, Mcozini, Macobolwane and Mntulwini.
Despite having been registered by their health motivators, the residents had to be re-registered by the Food Security Consortium coordinated by the National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) on the ongoing food aid beneficiary targeting and verification exercise.
This exercise resulted in the over 200 residents from Msunduza assembling at Mntulwini - their meeting venue at once and thus failing to maintain and observe the recommended social distancing and the COVID-19 regulations, which prohibit gathering of more than 20 people.
Several residents who were among those queuing to be registered for the food aid stated that Friday was the second day of their attempt to get registered, but they were turned back twice as the team had to register those from other locations under Msunduza.
“We were here yesterday and waited until lunch, where we were told to come back today (Friday). We have been here and now it is after lunch but no one has been registered out of the over 200 people. The NDMA team is still registering people at Cooperation,” one of the residents complained.
Other residents stated that they feared for their lives as they risked contracting the coronavirus following that there were over 200 people in one place and they failed to observe the metre distance as they queued to be registered for food aid.
“We are now exposed to coronavirus. In fact we are here to contract the virus,” said an elderly, who requested not to be named.
The elderly suggested lists from the community health motivators should have been used to distribute the food.
“Alternatively, they should have left one person here and asked the police to assist in managing the queue to maintain the social distancing and ensure that people had their masks on,” said the elderly person.
The elderly person also suggested that the same system that was used by the Deputy Prime Minister’s office to disburse their social grants should be used.
Equally, the Food Security Consortium team which arrived after 2pm refused to register the residents due to their numbers and the fact that they failed to maintain social distancing.
Instead, they requested the community health motivators and bucopho to ensure that fewer people remained and that they maintained the social distancing, pointing out that registering the large group would be a criminal offence and expose the team and residents to COVID-19.
They preferred to go to Sidwashini and return once the crowd had dispersed and fewer people had been appropriately queued.
Bucopho Zweli Mthethwa requested the team to give the relief committee (bucopho and health care givers) time to organise the residents in the groups of 20 as per the COVID-19 regulations. This exercise proved futile hence the team proceeded to Sidwashini and is expected to return this week once the chiefdom relief committee has organised the residents accordingly.
The residents then suggested that the elderly and people with disabilities should be first to register while the rest should be registered on another day. However, the registration had to be cancelled as grouping the crowd was not possible.
Mthethwa stated that he was going to meet with the community health motivators to devise a strategy that would ensure that the people are registered in the group of 20 as directed by the food security consortium team.
National Disaster Management Agency Strategy and Sustainability Director Sihle Mzileni said they encouraged the relief committees and tinkhundla councils, which include the member of parliament, indvuna yenkundla and councillors to assist the food security consortium teams to organise the people in smaller group in accordance with the COVID-19 regulations.
“People should meet at wards or chiefdoms as opposed to the Tinkhundla centres because large numbers tend to turnout there. We encourage the chiefs and the relief teams which include bucopho and the health care givers to assist us in organising the people in groups of 20 to avoid exposing each other to the COVID-19 as well as exposing the teams,” he said.
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