The recent KZN floods are a chilling reminder of the impact of climate change. A weather system triggered floods leading to more than 300mm of rainfall over a 24-hour period. Most of the damage is localised to eThekwini, although the damage extends throughout the province.  Homes, businesses, roads, bridges, electricity and water infrastructure have been damaged or completely destroyed, leaving over 40 000  people without homes and almost 300 schools damaged or destroyed.  No clean running water gives rise to waterborne disease. Community halls have been opened up to offer temporary refuge, with some halls housing over 300 people sleeping back-to-back on floors, with limited hygiene materials and the risk of becoming super spreaders of COVID.

KZN Floods_Devastation

Devastation and loss

Livelihoods have been completely destroyed and many won’t recover from the trauma and stress, especially within the lower-income sector, which was hardest hit. Many have lost loved ones, and there are still people missing, even after extensive search and rescue efforts by teams who worked around the clock.  Building materials, mattresses, blankets, clothing, and household equipment are now all critical for these families. In the spirit of Ubuntu, neighbouring communities have flocked to NGOs with support – and slowly we can support them to get their lives back together.

KZN Floods_Delivering relief

KZN Floods_Delivering food

SA Harvest’s relief strategy

In times of catastrophic disasters, like the recent floods in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, the relief response is often panicky and disorganised rendering the effort well below par from an impact perspective. Too add to this, there are many individuals and organisations who use the ‘opportunity’ for short-term publicity gain, which not only helps to boost the impression that the effects of the tragedy are short-term but it distracts from the understanding that the response to these crises needs to be a balance between response to immediate needs and, the more important long-term, sustainable  slog that is required to restore a semblance of normalcy. SA Harvest’s strategy, as with the 2021 riots in the same region, has been in line with this balanced, sustainable approach.

Of course, it’s not business as usual. Our beneficiaries have expanded to incorporate nearby affected communities.  All our beneficiaries fall into the affected areas. In some cases, our beneficiary organisations have taken in entire families. Local community halls have opened, and destitute families have flooded in. The halls are either running their own kitchens, or nearby soup kitchens are providing hot meals. Our beneficiary organisations are linking up with these halls so they can offer long term assistance as they are experienced in addressing the needs of families and well-positioned to guide our relief efforts. Our beneficiaries are fully vetted, and our long-standing relationship with them ensures transparency, traceability and ability to report on impact. The strength of these relationships also enables us to have a true reflection of what is happening on the ground as the situation evolves, and allows us to adapt to their changing needs and concerns.

Our normal operations protocol has also been significantly affected by washed away roads and broken bridges and logistics has been our greatest challenge. By using our own vehicles and other sources of transportation we have managed to not only keep up with our current levels of service but also increase them in line with post-flood demand. This will include a significant increase in purchased food over and above our normal rescued food deliveries, which will ensure the right levels of nutrition at this time and longer shelf-life in these difficult logistics conditions.

KZN floods_Offloading food