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Vulnerable children must be included COVID-19 responses

Friday 15 May 2020

The National Inter-Agency Working Group (NIAWG) calls on the South African government to urgently ensure that vulnerable children are not excluded from responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. The oubreak has made some children even more vulnerable. 
NIAWG commends the Department of Social Development in its extended and progressive effort to provide relief through food parcels, top-up grants, Social Relief of Distress Grant and special COVID-19 Social Relief Distress Grant. However, we are concerned about the limitations in the eligibility criteria required to access these grants. Application for these forms of relief have required a South African identity document, in some cases are available to refugees and permanent residence permit holders.

These forms of documentation are limiting and not inclusive of children and their parents who may be undocumented South African citizens, asylum seekers, undocumented, stateless, unaccompanied and separated children. It is well known that many South African and foreign children are undocumented in South Africa. According to the Department of Basic Education, in 2019 there were almost a million (998433) undocumented children enrolled in public schools - majority of whom are without birth certificates. Of these children, the majority (880968) are South African citizens.
Without these documents children and their families are essentially not recognised by the state. This leaves them vulnerable to multiple risks and exclusions including access to relief during the current national disaster caused by the COVID-19 pandemic as well as broader protection.
 To this end we are calling on the Department of Social Development to:

  • Review the eligibility criteria for accessing food relief during the COVID-19 response to allow, for any form of Identity to be acceptable, including acceptance of information provided by undocumented vulnerable members of our communities.  
  • Ensure that access to food parcels and food relief through distribution and feeding schemes is made available to all vulnerable children in South Africa.
  • Ensure that asylum seekers and undocumented people can apply for the COVID-19 Special Social Relied Distress Grant to ensure that they can feed their dependents and households.


About: The National Inter-Agency Working Group (NIAWG) is a national steering committee representing and promoting the protection of vulnerable children including: refugees, asylum seekers, undocumented, stateless and separated and unaccompanied minors. The NIAWG is made up of the following organisations: Save the Children South Africa, Lawyers for Human Rights, The Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa, and Terra Des Hommes 
For further information contact: 
Save the Children SA – Nyika Machenjedze: [email protected]
 or 0717652472 
Lawyers for Human Rights - Jessica Lawrence: [email protected]
Terre des hommes - Cathy Rutivi: [email protected]

The Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa - Abigail Dawson: [email protected] or 074 851 5683