’We go to bed on empty stomachs’

Sola children sitting on the bed that they all sleep in.

For Vuyiseka Sola and her family, having at least one meal a day is considered a luxury.

The family of six who live in a leaky shack and have only one bed to sleep on, are the face of the devastation that soaring unemployment rates and the Covid-19 pandemic have had on the poor.

Ms Sola, 29, is unemployed and lives in Lower Crossroads with her three children – girls aged two and six, and a boy aged 4 – her sister, 17 and brother, 21.

Apart from a grant she gets for her three children, she has no other income and they have been getting by, by asking people for food.

Before the pandemic, a local church used to give her food and sometimes they got food from the neighbours. But she fears people are tired of them now and she is reluctant to continue asking for help.

“It breaks my heart to see my children and my siblings going to bed on empty stomachs,” she said.

“There is nothing I can do but to watch helplessly because I am unemployed. We live off grant money for the three children. It is not enough to buy food and clothes at the same time. We hardly have enough to eat. If it were not for the church and some neighbours who give food at times, we could have been dead by now,” she said.

She said when the lockdown started in March last year, she anticipated that times would be tough. But she didn’t expect to have it so hard.

The reality of the pandemic, she said, was that things were so bad that having even just one meal a day was a luxury.

In the family’s sparsely furnished shack is just one bed on which the four women and girls sleep. Her brother and her son sleep on the floor.

“We would be happy if we can get a better place to stay too. The shack is leaking and now that winter is here, it will be difficult for us,” she said.

Ms Sola’s sister is in Grade 11 this year and while the school has changed uniforms, she has no choice but to continue wearing the old one because there’s no money to buy a new set of clothes.

“I know my sister cannot afford it because she struggles to get food for us. She is doing what she can for us to eat,” said the 17-year-old.

A neighbour said she used to help the family but then she lost her job due to the pandemic. “I pray that they get help. Going to bed hungry is not an easy thing. I have been there and I know the feeling,” she said.

This tiny and leaking shack has one bed in it and is home to six people.
The 17-year-old Grade 11 pupil normally comes home to nothing to eat.