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Shelters taking strain as domestic violence rises during Covid-19 lockdown

Independent Online (IOL) logo Independent Online (IOL) 2020-04-14 Mthuthuzeli Ntseku
a man standing in front of a window: With gender-based violence on the increase during the Covid-19 lockdown, there have been warnings that domestic shelters for women are reaching their full capacity. Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency/ANA © Provided by Independent Media With gender-based violence on the increase during the Covid-19 lockdown, there have been warnings that domestic shelters for women are reaching their full capacity. Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency/ANA

Cape Town - With gender-based violence on the increase during the Covid-19 lockdown, there have been warnings that domestic shelters for women are reaching their full capacity.

Tina Thiart, the founding member for 1000 Women Trust, said the surge in Covid-19 cases was straining even the most advanced and best-resourced health systems to the breaking point, including those at the front line in violence response.

“Domestic violence shelters in South Africa are reaching capacity or are unable to take new victims due to lockdown and social distancing measures. In other cases, they are being re-purposed to serve as health centres,” said Thiart.

Claudia Lopes, a project manager at the Heinrich Böll Foundation specialising in women's rights activism, said support services like shelters, Thuthuzela Care Centres and NGOs delivering any form of psycho-social and practical support services to victims needed to be supported.

“In the case of shelters, the government must release funding grants as soon as possible. We cannot have a situation where a shelter is waiting three or four months to receive its first tranche. This has never been acceptable but now, especially, you cannot have this happening,” she said.

Lopes said no funding meant no support or reduced support to victims.

The Western Cape Women’s Shelter Movement’s chairperson, Bernadine Bacha, said that in the province the movement had, together with the Social Development Department, implemented a two-tiered referral system for admission to shelters during lockdown. However, Bacha said in the Western Cape there hadn’t yet been a significant increase in requests for shelter services. “There is presently ample space available Contingency plans have also been considered should shelters become full,” she said.

Social Development MEC Sharna Fernandez said the department and civil society organisations would continue to provide services to victims of crime and violence through shelter services and psycho-social support.

“Four shelters have been identified as Stage 1 shelters to admit at-risk victims of crime and violence. Only referrals from a social worker with a safety risk assessment and the SAPS will be accepted. After 14 days, clients will be transferred from Stage 1 shelter to a Stage 2 shelter,” she said. 

Cape Argus

Women of South Africa demand action against gender-based violence (Provided by MSN)

Follow the Health Department’s latest updates on the coronavirus (Covid-19), including the NICD’s prevention methods. Travellers from Covid-19 affected areas are advised to stay at home for up to 14 days. If you develop any symptoms contact your doctor or clinic, they will advise your next steps. For more information visit the National Institute for Communicable Diseases website or call 0800 029 999. Alternatively, send HI to 0600 123 456 on WhatsApp.

During this time, people across our country have offered to help through the Solidarity Response Fund. To assist or for more information visit https://www.solidarityfund.co.za/.

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