April 30, 2020 / 11:16 AM / a month ago

Aerial footage shows miles-long queue for food aid in South Africa

Locals are seen during the distribution of food amid the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Alexandra township, South Africa, April 28, 2020. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Aerial footage showed thousands of people queuing for miles down a dirt road in South Africa for charity food aid meant to relieve hunger caused by the coronavirus lockdown.

The images from the neighbouring slums of Mooiplaas and Spruit, on the outskirts of the capital Pretoria, show the extent of need that South Africa’s economic lockdown has generated among many who even before the pandemic were living a hand-to-mouth existence.

Africa’s most industrialised nation has recorded 5,350 cases and 103 deaths from the virus.

About 90 percent of the inhabitants of these informal settlements are foreigners or undocumented migrants from other southern African nations like Zimbabwe, Yusuf Abramjee, a spokesman for the charity coalition said by telephone.

They do not qualify for food aid from a government busy attending to its own large numbers of impoverished citizens.

The footage shot on Wednesday and reviewed by Reuters shows a dirt track flanked by bush, large patches of which are burnt or covered in rubbish, and iron-roof shanty towns. In places the queue looks orderly; in others, it disintegrates into a crowd.

“That just shows you the levels of desperation that we have,” said Abramjee. “I’ve not seen anything on this scale, not these levels of poverty and hunger in South Africa. It’s heartbreaking,” he said, adding the queue was 4 km (2.5 miles) at one stage.

In total, the charity delivered 8,000 food parcels to an estimated 12,000 families, he said.

South Africa has spent five weeks under restrictions requiring most of the population of about 58 million to stay at home, apart from essential trips.

Reporting by Siyabonga Sishi and Tim Cocks; Editing by Janet Lawrence

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