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Thu Dec 08 02:05:52 CAT 2016

Lifeline needs lifeline

Aarti J Narsee | 2016-03-03 00:43:07.0
Nomfundo Majola, of Childline SA, said victims would bear the brunt of the cuts. File photo
Image by: Gallo Images/Thinkstock

Crisis counselling service Lifeline is one of several NGOs that sounded alarm bells yesterday after learning that their international funding had been severely restricted.

The organisations say they are in "crisis mode" after learning that international funding agency the Global Fund was insisting that money it provides be spent only in the eight geographical areas reporting the most rape cases.

The harshest effects of the restrictions will be felt by more than 30 Thuthuzela care centres around the country. Thuthuzela provides essential services to rape victims.

In 2014-2015 more than 58000 sexual offences were reported.

Limpopo, Northern Cape and the Free State have been completely cut off from Global Fund money. In Gauteng, only Tshwane now gets funding, and in Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal only the big metros - Cape Town and eThekwini - receive any cash.

As part of its campaign to fight HIV/Aids, the Global Fund has budgeted R32-million for South Africa over the next three years, R2-million more than in the past three years.

Funding is negotiated by the SA National Aids Council.

A coalition of NGOs wrote to the council yesterday, saying they were "deeply concerned" by the way the money had been restricted to funding their work in only eight districts.

Lifeline, Childline and Mosaic are among the NGOs saying that, when their funding stops at the end of the month, many NGOs will have to scale down their services.

Lifeline's website says its national counselling line receives an average of 200 calls a day.

"Given the very high rates of sexual victimisation reported in South Africa, we cannot afford to diminish services to rape survivors. We, therefore, urge the National Aids Council to reconsider its decision to fund in selected districts only and to fund post-rape care nationally. Rape is, after all, a countrywide problem."

The SA National Aids Council's CEO, Fareed Abdullah, admitted to The Times yesterday that the restricted funding decision was "too harsh". He said the council was negotiating with the Global Fund to relax its insistence on allocating money only to rape "hot spots", and was searching for other donors.

Joe Ralapedi, of Lifeline's Free State branch, said the cuts would affect services.

Nomfundo Majola, of Childline SA, said victims would bear the brunt of the cuts.

Sharmala Ishwarlall, of Mosaic, in Cape Town, which focuses on gender-based violence, said: "It leaves us in a critical situation. We are in crisis mode right now."

The organisation had asked big business for funding but many companies were already committed elsewhere.

Mosaic workers had approached communities in which they work for funds.

Fiona Nicholson, of Thohoyandou Victim Empowerment Centre, in Limpopo, said: "We went through this once before and we worked without salaries for two months. Not one staff member failed to turn up for work . they are so amazing and committed.

"For them to be disrespected . when they are providing essential services to the most vulnerable women and children. Only God knows how we are going to cope."

The centre helps 45 rape victims a month, many of them children.

Shaheda Omar, director of the Teddy Bear Clinic, said funding was a recurring problem.

"There is a feeling of impending doom and gloom, a threat that hangs over your head each year, always questioning if funding is going to come and whether it will be on time," she said.

Abdullah said the National Aids Council's biggest problem was that big funders thought of South Africa as an upper-middle-income country. "They feel that funds should be invested in poorer countries," he said.

The Department of Social Development failed to respond to questions put by The Times.

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