SA private sector’s exemplary COVID-19 response
How one conscious company is doing the extraordinary to help the ordinary
South Africa has been applauded by the World Health Organization for managing to control the spread of the coronavirus far more successfully than developed countries to date. Since the announcement of the first COVID-19 case the government has worked tirelessly to ensure that we are protected, that the spread is carefully monitored and that tough decision is made to protect the nation.
The toughest action has been the nationwide lockdown, which has deeply challenged businesses and communities but was necessary to avoid an uncontrollable spread of the virus.
Social media has been full of praise for our government but there are a lot of questions around what the private sector is doing at this time.
It has certainly been inspiring following the daily announcements from companies, but there have been certain standout organisations that have already moved far beyond announcements, working together with the government in ensuring that SA doesn’t suffer the same fate as countries such as China, Italy and the USA.
One such company is AECI, who may not be known to households but were amongst the very first to mobilise a rapid response plan with the mission to help the most vulnerable communities in the country, from whom they have absolutely nothing to gain, and have also not asked for any recognition.
The AECI Group has invested over R 1.9 million rands in relief initiatives to address the vulnerable impacted by COVID-19. These initiatives entail:
PPE for medical staff in under-resourced hospitals;
Provision of rapid testing kits;
Hand washing stations at public clinics;
Devices at communal taps to avoid transmission in densely populated areas;
Household hand-washing devices;
Provision of clean water and soap;
Distribution of 10 000 bottles of sanitizer to vulnerable communities
Distribution of 500 food parcels
Whilst many companies are still aligning their plans, AECI has already implemented theirs, measured the impact, and identified even more areas for investment. They are “riding the COVID-19 curve” and responding to the changing needs of communities as the impact of the virus evolves.
So, what is it that they have achieved, and what has been the impact?
In less than 30 days, and in the midst of the lockdown, the company has already helped improve the circumstances of over 5 million South Africans by:
Sponsoring handwashing programmes to the value of R1,73 million. Intelligently strategised, these programmes will live beyond the coronavirus crisis and then target a reduction in diarrhea and other infectious diseases in high-density arears. This is critically important work in South Africa where diarrhea accounts for over 20% of fatalities for children under 5 but doesn’t gain the attention it deserves.
Early identification that clinics and hospitals could become super-spreading sites if not well-resourced and managed and have donated uniquely designed and locally manufactured handwashing stations. These stations will not help with handwashing for patients but will be critical in protecting our frontline. The wellbeing of our health practitioners is critical in ensuring that we win our fight against this virus. The estimated reach of these stations in the current year is 15.5 million patients.
Deploying health workers to support government efforts, donating government educational materials, and hand hygiene products to those who need them most.
Targeting child-headed households and orphanages by providing foot-operated stands at communal taps and 2l handwashing units with bars of soap for use in people’s houses.
Despite the mammoth work they have already achieved, the company feels more needs to be done, and AECI plans to invest even more funds. The initial investments were focused on prevention, and whilst this work must continue, the next phase is focused on food security relief programmes due to impact of the lockdown and job losses, sanitizer distribution to help protect people when moving around post-lockdown and donating rapid testing kits to help expand the net of testing.
The company is also calling out to other organisations to assist in this critical time. The lockdown was a necessary action however it has left millions of South Africans destitute and in need of aid. The company’s business activities are underpinned by their values - of being Bold, Innovative, Going Green, and being Engaged and Responsible.
“Enabling communities with the right tools and education will empower them to stay safe at this particularly challenging time. Responsible engagement with our stakeholders, including communities and regulators, is a cornerstone of AECI’s values. We are indeed stronger together when we work together for a common purpose,” says Mark Dytor, AECI’s Chief Executive.
“There is no doubt in my mind that we will prevail. This is because South Africans have come together like never before to wage the struggle against this virus together”. – SA President Mr. Cyril Ramaphosa
This article was written by MD of Triple Eight, Sarika Modi. Triple Eight is a multinational impact agency, working in times of healthcare crises to co-ordinate efforts of governments and big business.