Faces of Covid-19: Saving 100,000 very hungry children in rural SA

Civil society organisation SACSoWACH has put the issue of malnutrition in the spotlight, saying it worsened under the lockdown. SA Medical Research Council CEO Dr Glenda Gray said malnutrition has resurfaced for the first time in decades at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital. Health Minister Zweli Mkhize responded by saying Dr Gray’s comments were “inaccurate”.We asked for you to share pictures of how the Covid-19 crisis has affected you and how you are helping each other. I received an email from Marilyn Bassin, who summarises the work of her NGO (below). When the lockdown was introduced, Bassin got together with Rose Kransdorff to raise money to provide e’Pap to impoverished communities, especially “where grandmothers and children looked after one another”. To date ‘Save a Soul’ has provided nutritional support to about 100,000 children in rural areas, says Bassin. Please continue to send your pictures to [email protected]. – Lindiwe Molekoa

From Marilyn Bassin:

With the imposition of lockdown, Marilyn Bassin had to cease all the work her NGO Boikanyo The Dion Herson Foundation had been busy with in the community and schools of Protea South informal community in Soweto. She and her NGO had just started a grade 4 and 5 maths program at a local school. She is also an advocate for children born with disability. As an extra, she educates the locals on how to look after their pets in the crowded dusty streets she works in.

Rose Kransdorff, together with her late husband Basil, formulated and produced e’Pap (a balanced porridge which provides the recommended daily allowance of vitamins and minerals in a form the body can absorb and use). They started the e’Pap Foundation. Kransdorff made provision that, during this Covid period, e’Pap is sold at a dramatically reduced price. As an activist, the thought of people going hungry is as obscene to her as it is to Bassin.

Bassin and Kransdorff got together and formulated a plan, a perfect partnership.

Within a week they both began raising money to provide e’Pap to impoverished communities in Gauteng.

Bassin, however, started wondering what was happening with the communities in the rural areas, places far from the watchful eye of journalists. It stood to reason that the situation was dire in the inaccessible villages where foreign nationals struggle to survive and where grandmothers and children looked after one another. They had to be worse off than the urban areas.

The ’Save a Soul’ campaign was born. Both women know that if they could keep little ones and their grandmothers alive, they could literally save souls.

Money was raised to buy e’Pap, every last cent that came in was put towards distribution to a community that no one has ever heard of.

It takes time and coordination to arrange each drop off. At least five NGOs participate in each drop off. Areas of dire need are carefully researched. The funds are raised, transport to the site is organised, and then the most delicate part of the journey is left … delivery to the beneficiaries. This last step in the process is managed by carefully vetted NGOs. They needed to have transport as well as caregivers who go out regularly and are in touch with the locals.

Only the most desperate are put on the list, the entire household needs to be provided with enough for 30 days. Most of the NGOs relied on community caregivers who walked kilometres to find the needy – and many of these dedicated and caring women receive a small stipend. Their commitment is magnificent; many of them actually ‘qualify’ as beneficiaries themselves.

There is only one goal: Save a Soul. Every child gets sufficient e’Pap for 40 days. Every adult got enough for 30 days.


Rural Limpopo


To date, Save a Soul’ has provided nutritional support to 99,173 children in so many deep-rural areas: Mpumalanga, Transkei , Gauteng, Limpopo, North West and KwaZulu-Natal. The expenses of getting the precious cargo to its destination have, by and large, been donated. Bassin makes sure of this. Money raised goes entirely into e’Pap.

KZN has the unenviable reputation of having children who are three to five times hungrier than any other province. Bassin and Kransdorff have accompanied handouts of tons of e’Pap there, as well as to rural Limpopo. They saw first-hand what starvation does to the bodies of children. They spoke to children about how they survive, and to their horror, when asked their ages, they were at least four years older than they looked.

‘Save a Soul’ will continue for as long as the effects of lockdown continue. Almost no food parcels have been distributed in the deep-rural areas where e’Pap has been sent, despite many applications having been made.

The facts remain: Lockdown has resulted in hunger in the urban areas in plain sight; starvation is the reality in rural areas. There is still much work to be done. We will continue as long as we are able.

The children, after all, are our future…

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