As fears grow over a third wave of Covid-19 infections in many African countries, Nico Esterhuizen is watching the situation unfold with particular concern. As CFO of JAM International, an African-focused humanitarian relief organisation providing life-saving interventions and development projects, he is used to challenges, but the impact of the pandemic has taken the scale of need to another level.

‘It has put a lot of people back into extreme poverty, highlighting how fragile the continent is,’ he says. ‘In Africa, it could take more than nine generations for a family to move from extreme poverty to meet the country’s median income, and years of scientifically proven interventions to get people to a position where they can contribute to an economy. The pandemic has almost wiped out five to 10 years of good work.’

‘The pandemic has almost wiped out five to 10 years of good work’

JAM operates in some of the most dangerous locations on the continent, providing professional interventions, including health and nutrition, food security and livelihoods, clean water, sanitation and emergency response to vulnerable communities in seven countries. In South Africa, it delivers regular meals to 3,000 shack-based pre-schools across the country that feed between 90,000 and 135,000 children – an operation that was seriously disrupted when schools were forced to close due to the pandemic. In January it was active in Mozambique, helping communities that had lost their homes to Cyclone Eloise, as well as others in the north of the country fleeing Islamist insurgents.

Climate issues

Covid, of course, is only the latest challenge. In recent years, climate change has also had a massive impact on food security across the continent and hence the work of JAM.

‘Climate change has meant that the eastern side of Africa receives more devastating rain and the western side more drought. Both threaten the lives and livelihoods of millions of vulnerable people. Flooding means no clean water and destroys crops. Drought means no water and no crops. We have definitely seen this become more prevalent, and it has increased our workload,’ Esterhuizen says.

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