By Nabeelah Shaikh
In a spate of deadly floods and mudslides that killed at least 450 people in KwaZulu-Natal last week, Muslim charities stepped into gear to once again distribute tons food and water to more than 40 000 desperate people in the province.
Thousands have been displaced in the greater Durban area – their homes and other worldly possessions simply washed away by the roaring floods. This is the first time in recent history that the province has seen such heavy rainfall, amounting to 400mm in some areas. President Cyril Ramaphosa has blamed the calamity on climate change
Most displaced people are now being housed in community halls around the city of Durban, Organisations such as Penny Appeal South Africa, Ashraful Aid, Gift of the Givers, Caring Sisters Network, the Al-Ansaar Foundation, Islamic Relief SA, AMA and weFEEDsa are among those who have been on the ground, assisting those affected.
Zahid Fakey of weFEEDsa said at least 29 non-profit organisations have been collaborating with each other, through Muslims For Humanity, to provide aid on the ground.
“If we’ve got goods that some NGOs require in certain areas, we exchange those goods with each other. That way, there isn’t an oversupply in some areas, while others may be neglected,” said Fakey.
He estimated that more than 40 000 victims have been assisted so far.
“Victims are being provided with three hot meals a day, at community halls. Clothing is being provided for children and adults. Groceries are being provided. We’re also finding many areas are affected by having no water and electricity. We are trying to provide water to these areas. There’s been a shortage of water supply in Durban, so we have been working with organisations in Joburg to get Superlinks of water into the city,” said Fakey.
To assist with the water situation in the province, local NGO, Awqaf South Africa has donated R500 000 towards water infrastructure support in flood stricken areas.
“With infrastructure badly damaged, one of the ironies of the disaster – is that despite there being water all around – there will be a pressing need for clean supplies to prevent water-borne diseases. One of the positive spin-offs of the project is that communities will be able to have access to potable water via boreholes and reliable reticulation systems,” said Shiraz Gany, Chairman of Awqaf SA.
Yasiera Suliman of Caring Sisters Network says the organisation has been able to distribute thousands of blankets over the last few days.
“We identified that there were so many organisations that were helping, so we decided to focus on blankets. In a few days, more than 8000 blankets were distributed, through NGOs that are on the ground. Community halls have been taking blankets from us, as well as eThekwini Disaster Management teams. It costs R120 per blanket and our donors have risen to the occasion, both local and international donors,” said Suliman.
The organisation also partnered with the Al-Ansaar Foundation to provide assistance.
“If people couldn’t to get to us, we set-up a system where those in need could stop at Al Ansaar to fetch aid. There are food packs, water, blankets, and other aid that is available there,” said Suliman.
Suliman says the next phase of relief efforts will focus on rebuilding.
“We’ve fed, we’ve clothed, and we’ve assisted, so what next? Where do all these people go? Some will go back to their homes, while some homes have been washed away completely. There are homes that can be restored and rebuilt. We are putting up our call for funds. We have already identified homes that we can assist. Depending on funding, we want to assist in rebuilding those homes. We have identified township madresahs and the homes of Imams that have been damaged,” she said.
Shahnaaz Paruk, the CEO of Penny Appeal South Africa, says the organisation’s response has been focused around providing hot meals, blankets, and hygiene kits.
“We have also been doing vitamin packs. It’s our belief that those housed in community halls especially, have been exposed to elements, and it’s been a bit of a severe cold for Durban. So we’re trying to build immunity both for adults and children. We are also trying to provide activity packs for children as there is a huge gap in psycho-social support,” said Paruk.
For Penny Appeal SA too, their next phase will also look at assisting with rebuilding, as soon as the land is declared safe enough again.
“Those that have damaged shacks, they want to be able to repair them and get back on their feet. This is going to be our focus going forward,” said Paruk.
She said they’re also going to look at offering medical support from volunteers for primary screening.
“We are anticipating cold and flu season, we know it’s going to hit. We want to make those that are displaced feel as comfortable as possible during this time, until there’s a bigger movement towards resolving this,” said Paruk.
The charity organisations said their work on the ground will continue over the coming weeks.