The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in South Africa has donated Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) to 12 Traditional Council areas within the iSimangaliso Wetland Park in KwaZulu-Natal. Several representatives from different stakeholders, government and traditional leaders were in attendance to acknowledge the consignment through a virtual ceremony including His Excellency Mr. Norio Maruyama, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Embassy of Japan, Deputy Director General, Mr Shonisani Munzhedzi from the Department of Environment, Fisheries and Forestry (DEFF) as well as Mr Badova Jobe representing the communities of iSimangaliso. The beneficiaries are people who are unable to afford PPEs and have been negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.  The distribution is made possible through a partnership with the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF) and iSimangaliso Wetland Park and funding from the Japanese government.    

iSimangaliso Wetland Park Integrated Management Plan 2017-2021, mostly falls within the uMkhanyakude District Municipality, ranked as the second poorest and most deprived municipality in the country. Over 80% of households live below the poverty line and an estimated 13% of the economically active population is formally employed. This situation has been worsened by the slowdown of tourism activities due to COVID-19. The area is 98% rural, with high unemployment due to an almost complete lack of industrialisation.

 “It is a privilege for UNDP to be able to contribute towards the response to COVID-19 by ensuring that all can protect themselves. We are also happy to know that this initiative will strengthen relationships between DEFF, iSimangaliso, and the traditional authorities. We thank the Government of Japan for supporting this initiative” said Dr Ayodele Odusola, Resident Representative of UNDP South Africa during his address at the virtual handover ceremony.

As South Africa recovers from the peak in COVID-19 cases in July, the country is currently experiencing a resurgence in COVID-19 infections, with 836,764 confirmed cases and 22,747 fatalities to date. The increase in infection has been attributed to a lack of adherence to safety measures, including the wearing of masks. It is therefore imperative that communities be protected, especially those in far flung rural areas to ensure that no one is left behind.

“We have a responsibility as conservationists to empower the historically disadvantaged communities living inside, adjacent or around the park. Several of the communities who have benefited from this consignment are the poorest in the park and this donation of PPEs is therefore an immense contribution to the people that cannot afford to purchase them” said Chief Executive Officer of iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority, Mr Sibusiso Bukhosini.

These communities have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, where lockdown has resulted in reduced employment and fewer business opportunities. Because the province of Kwa-Zulu Natal is a popular holiday destination for domestic tourism over the festive season, rural communities are becoming increasingly vulnerable to the virus. The PPE donation from UNDP will ensure that these rural communities are equipped with the tools they need to stay safe as they rebuild their lives in the wake of the humanitarian crisis

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For more information, or media interviews please contact: United Nations Development Programme: 0720679593 bobby.shabangu@undp.org / 0718926004 Simangaliso, Lungelo Zulu: Lungelo@isimangaliso.com /

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UNDP partners with people at all levels of society to help build nations that can withstand crisis, and drive and sustain the kind of growth that improves the quality of life for everyone. On the ground in nearly 170 countries and territories, we offer global perspective and local insight to help empower lives and build resilient nations. www.za.undp.org.

 

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