Covid-19 Response Project

Habitat for Humanity South Africa: Covid-19 Response Project


During this Covid-19 Pandemic, Habitat for Humanity South Africa is partnering with vulnerable local communities to support livelihoods and reduce transmission. Our Covid-19 response includes supporting local women earn income through production of face masks, providing household relief for the most vulnerable, improving community hygiene by upgrading school sanitation infrastructure and increasing awareness by conducting Covid-19 Awareness Campaign.

Project Impact: Reduction in the number of new Covid-19 infections in HFHSA’s targeted partner communities (and flattening the curve of virus spread)

Proposed Target Communities: Orange Farm, Lawley, Umagababa, Umbumbulu, Boekenhoutskloof, Mandela Square, Khayelitsha and Mfuleni


Background and Justification to urgent Covid-19 response in South Africa 

Registered in 1987 and actively building since 1996, Habitat for Humanity South Africa NCP (HFHSA) is dedicated to the long-term development and sustainability of South Africa’s low-income housing sector and is focused on building thriving communities. As an affiliate organisation, HFHSA obtains advice, services and funding from Habitat for Humanity International.

According to the United Nations, South Africa is known as one of the most unequal societies with approximately 25% of South Africans (14, 5 million) living in extreme poverty[1]. This inequality not only has its roots in the legacy of apartheid but the labour market is the biggest contributor towards inequality with a gender and race bias towards white South Africans and men. Furthermore, the bottom 60% of households are heavily reliant on social grants and not so much on the labour market.  Female headed households feel the impact of poverty more. According to the World Bank, “Inequality of opportunity, measured by the influence of race, parents’ education, parents’ occupation, place of birth, and gender influence opportunities, is high.”[2]

The current housing backlog is in excess of two million units despite the delivery of over 4 million housing units and opportunities through various government subsidy programmes since 1994.[3] High rates of urbanisation, population growth, financial constraints and rising development costs have made it impossible to keep pace with the demand for housing. Although society has been united politically to fight Covid-19, there are extreme and persistent economic and social inequalities that have been highlighted by the need to ‘shelter in place’.

HFHSA’s programmatic interventions are deliberately biased towards informal rural settlements in urban areas due to their critical vulnerabilities. Poor access to decent housing and basic essential services; water and sanitation provision, electricity, solid waste collection services and health care facilities, puts these families at an elevated risk to contracting and fighting disease. Together with overcrowding, it is virtually impossible for people living in these communities to keep themselves safe from the effects and spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. It is HFHSA’s project mission to enable communities to protect themselves through arming their families with access to health education and sanitation measures necessary to ‘flatten the curve’.

The complexity and challenges posed by the Covid-19 call for a multisectoral approach in mitigating the impact of the pandemic on households and communities. The South African government through its Departments of Health, Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation has been undertaking commendable interventions to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic. While the state response has been commendable, stakeholders such as HFHSA that have a strong grass-roots presence and trust of communities need to complement government efforts in tackling Covid-19. As part of the non-profit sector, HFHSA is able to work effectively and efficiently in delivering requisite support and to identify gaps in areas where greater intervention is required. The partnership between private sector and civil society is important in ensuring that the most needy households and communities do not become casualties in the current crisis. This requires strengthening existing partnerships and collective action in implementing prevention measures and meeting the challenges that have arisen due to the pandemic.


SA Government Response to Covid-19

On 23 March 2020, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a three-week nationwide lockdown with severe restrictions on travel and movement, requiring all South Africans to “shelter in place” – only being allowed to leave their homes to buy food, seek medical help or under other extreme circumstances. Without measures to mitigate the spread of the virus, it was estimated that 2.4 per cent of the South African population would require hospitalization and 216,064 deaths would occur by the end of the pandemic.[4]

Transmission rates have slowed down since the first week of lockdown, however the economic impact of these measures on the poor and most vulnerable is devastating. A team of researchers predict that the extreme poverty rate among vulnerable households will almost triple. They estimate that the social assistance measures announced by the government will still leave 45 per cent of South African workers without relief.[5]

The positive Covid-19 cases in South Africa currently stand close to 224 000* and is rising daily. As South Africa moves into the colder winter months, an even sharper rise in cases is predicted. The Western [6]Cape has become the epicentre of the virus with 33,4% of all reported cases, followed by Gauteng (33%), the Eastern Cape (18,7%) and KZN (7,7%).

According to the Western Cape Government’s Covid-19 Dashboard, Khayelitsha (with 1 488 confirmed cases) and Mfuleni (725 confirmed cases) are among the top 10 communities with the most Covid-19 cases in the Western Cape. Due to their high unemployment rates and lack of access to basic services (water and waste removal), the communities featured on this top 10 list have been classified as being critically vulnerable to the spread of Covid-19 and its economic effects.

According to reports by the KwaZulu Natal Department of Health, the community of Ethekwini has 9679 confirmed cases; half of the 18 000 cases confirmed to date in this province.

The City of Johannesburg currently has 2 319 confirmed cases followed by Ekhuruleni with 989 confirmed cases.


Habitat for Humanity South Africa’s proposed response:

A second wave of increased infection was predicted during the cooler months when an increase in the incidence and severity of respiratory tract infections is normally seen each year. This puts a much larger number of people still at risk to contract the virus.

HFHSA’s Strategic Interventions aim to complement government efforts in the fight against the devastating Covid-19 pandemic in 3 critical areas.


Strategic Components:

1) Community Hygiene Improvement;

2) Covid-19 Awareness Campaign;

3) Household Relief


1) Community Hygiene Improvement

Outcome 1: Reducing and minimising the spread of Covid-19 infections in 8 identified high-risk communities through improved access to sanitation and water.

Good hygienic practices are the cornerstone for ensuring healthy communities and key to prevent the spread of the virus. Without access to basic services it is impossible to curb the spread of the disease. Although 88% of SA households have access to water, less than 50% of households have access to piped water. 13% of the South African population share a communal tap. Access to uninterrupted water supply is a major challenge for our project communities where they lack adequate Water & Sanitation Hygiene (WaSH) facilities. Through providing access to critical water and sanitation, households are able to protect themselves against the Covid-19 spread. 

Proposed Activities:

1.1. 24 portable WaSH facilities installed in 8 communities 

1.2. 16 water tanks – 10 000L’s (litres) delivered and installed in 8 communities

1.3. 6 ablution facilities constructed in 6 identified schools 

1.4. 15 schools have received taps, water containers, sanitizers, soap, sanitary pads, thermometers and masks thereby serving 30 000 children 

1.5. Livelihoods Support – 5 community groups identified to produce 6 000 masks per co-op (46 000 masks)


2) Covid-19 Awareness Campaign

Outcome 2: 64 000 community members have increased awareness of Covid-19 risk and prevention through improved hygiene practices.

HFHSA subscribes to the notion that “knowledge is power”, and it is of paramount importance that community members are empowered with relevant information with regards to issues such as Covid-19 symptoms, contraction and prevention; Call Centre numbers for reporting suspected cases of the disease, as well as good hygiene information.

Information will be compiled with assistance from SA’s Department of Health and the World Health Organisation (WHO) resources. The dissemination of this information will be done in English, Xhosa, Zulu, Pedi, Sotho and Afrikaans.

2.1. Awareness campaign to 15 schools and 4000 identified households containing factual Covid-19 messaging on various communications platforms.


3) Household Relief

Outcome 3: 4 000 community members have access to food relief 

It has been reported that 14 000 000 South Africans go to bed hungry. It is estimated that this number has grown exponentially due to the effects of Covid-19 on job losses and food insecurity.

In response to HFHSA’s partner community’s call for immediate food relief, HFHSA will partner with local NPOs and community structures to facilitate a food relief programme that alleviates this need. 500 critically vulnerable families in each of the 8 communities (4000 households) will be identified and included in HFHSA’s door-to-door COVID-19 Awareness campaign; receiving both essential hygiene packs and food relief.

3.1. 500 households per community in 8 communities benefit from food initiatives (4000 households)


If you are an individual and you would like to join hands with us in supporting this project, please donate:

We encourage corporates to partner with us in this relief and recovery response – we can rebuild South Africa better, together. Email: [email protected] to #BuildBackBetter!



*all statistics current at time of reporting:  09/07/2020

[1] MC Alexander 2019. Mapping Poverty in South Africa. Accessed: 06/07/20.

[2] International Bank for Reconstruction and Development / The World Bank 2018. Overcoming Poverty and Inequality in South Africa; An Assessment of Drivers, Constraints and Opportunities.

[3] Financial and Fiscal Commission 2012. Building an Inclusionary Housing Market: Shifting the Paradigm for Housing Delivery in South Africa. file://?Downloads/Housing%20Finance%20Formal%20Problem%20Statement%20(no%20problem%20statement)%20-%20Publication.pdf

[4] & [5] WIDER Background Note 2/2020. UNU-WIDER. Accessed: 06/07/20:

[6] Western Cape Government 2020. Covid-19 Response. Accessed: 09/07/20: