Overcoming Covid-19 in South Africa

Direct Relief donates $1 million, serves as U.S. fiscal agent for Solidarity Fund.



Volunteers with the Solidarity Fund in South Africa take part in Covid-19 response efforts. The group has been instrumental with distributions of protective gear and other humanitarian aid since the beginning of the pandemic. (Courtesy photo)

Direct Relief has joined the fight against Covid-19 in South Africa, throwing its financial and organizational support behind the Solidarity Fund, a South African public benefit initiative.

The Solidarity Fund was formed in March 2020 as a rapid response vehicle to augment the South African government’s response to Covid-19. It is focused on reducing coronavirus transmission, including through communications driving behavioral change; health response, including obtaining personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline health workers; and humanitarian response, including food relief for people who have lost their means of sustenance.

Direct Relief is acting as the fiscal agent for the Solidarity Fund in the United States, enabling U.S. residents and corporations to easily make donations to the Fund. 100% of all donations made on the donation page will be delivered to the Solidarity Fund.

Direct Relief itself has donated $1 million to the Solidarity Fund, and has advised the Fund on purchases of large quantities of PPE from China.

“South Africa’s Solidarity Fund is exactly the type of unifying, pragmatic approach that makes sense in the face of a pandemic that threatens everyone,” said Direct Relief President and CEO Thomas Tighe, who also serves as Managing Director of Direct Relief South Africa, the organization’s South African affiliate, a Section 21 nonprofit. “Direct Relief is so pleased to participate in this important effort that is pulling people and organizations together to help address both the obvious direct threats to public health and the many related effects, particularly for those in already difficult circumstances.”

Within two months of its establishment, the Fund delivered food packages to about 300,000 vulnerable households. Each package was designed to provide a family with food essentials for two to four weeks. The Fund is now rolling out the second phase of the food relief program in the form of food vouchers, after determining it would be a more effective and efficient way to provide the assistance.

The Fund has played a catalytic role in responding to the impact of the pandemic on the health system by procuring critical medical equipment and PPE for healthcare workers and expanding testing capacity.

The Solidarity Fund has so far distributed nearly 20 million units of PPE, including gloves, gowns, masks, sanitizers, boot covers and face shields to healthcare workers in public sector hospitals and clinics, as well as to community health workers. The Fund has also provided more than 1 million surgical masks to nine medical schools across the country to help fifth- and sixth-year medical students and those in allied health sciences resume clinical blocks and complete their studies.

“We are privileged to have social partners such as Direct Relief who through their contributions have expressed confidence in the Solidarity Fund’s efforts to make an impactful contribution towards South Africa’s fight against Covid-19,” said the Fund’s Deputy Chairman Adrian Enthoven. “As a fiscal agent to the Fund, Direct Relief makes it possible for interested international donors to make a contribution in an efficient way that otherwise wouldn’t be available to the Fund. We are grateful for their support and solidarity with our mission of assisting South Africa’s health and humanitarian efforts during this challenging time.”

The Fund is being operated by more than 90 full-time voluntary staff across a network of 25 companies and organizations that are providing support services. In the spirit of unity in action, all of the talent and skills that have been mobilized to assist the Fund are doing so on a pro bono basis, with no one earning fees or a salary from the Fund. The Fund works closely with government and business, but is independent of both of them. Insurance company Old Mutual Ltd. is administering the funds on a pro bono basis, and the Fund is reporting detailed information on donations received and expenditures made.

Many of South Africa’s top political and business leaders pledged to donate 30 percent of their salaries earned over three months to the Fund.

The behavioral change initiative being run by the Fund encourages mask-wearing and hand-washing, and seeks to reduce practices that risk Covid-19 transmission, such as attending heavily-crowded funerals. It has partnered with the National House of Traditional Leaders to help traditional leaders communicate prevention messages to their communities.

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