Part one: Attend to the immediate need – look to the long-term

Kwa-Zulu Natal unrest – Part one of a two part series.

Designated as first responders, The Domino Foundation’s Disaster Relief Unit was in the vanguard of those who stepped into the breach after the civil unrest which rocked the province in July 2021. Previous calamitous events, which initially had been tackled on an ad hoc basis, had already led to the formulation of a general strategy encompassing the four phases of disaster management: mitigation; preparedness; response and recovery. In the process over the past couple of years, a partnership of five NPOs under the name of KZN Response had come together to implement whatever aspects of this strategy applied in any particular set of circumstances. The association garnered the specific strengths of City Hope Disaster Relief, The Domino Foundation, KwaZulu Natal Christian Council (KZN CC), The South African Red Cross and Zoe-Life, to tackle the effects incurred by shack fires, flooding and xenophobia-inspired violence.

With so many shopping centres having been destroyed, the immediate response called for easing the plight of some of the thousands of already vulnerable persons who now were bereft of accessible places to purchase basic necessities and cut off from the supply chain. Some of those with immediate needs were semi-urban and rural families as well as refugees and foreign nationals impacted by the crisis. By partnering with a number of NPOs across the province, six distribution centres and pack-houses were set up across the province.

To facilitate an effective response to this kind of challenge, the starting point has to be the gathering of real-time data. KZN Response conducted door-to-door household-vulnerability surveys in communities, cross-referenced this data with critical supply-chain information from major retailers as to which of their stores would be online again within the short, medium and long terms. This done, the call went out to the network of corporates, organisations and individuals across the country to donate in cash or kind to the collection of basic non-perishable items. The response was overwhelming and meticulous logistical planning was going to be critical in the sorting and packing of the donations, and in the distribution to those in need. For the KZN Response team, accountability was key and so mapping the distribution of aid was a critical component in the operation. An interactive map which tracks relief aid, hotspot areas and SMEs supported can be viewed online at

The KZN Disaster Response again relied on shifts of volunteers, made up of corporate staff, church outreach teams and school learners and networked with over 230 organisations to assemble over 20 500 relief hampers which it or one of its partnering organisations then distributed to households in need. Over 82 000 individuals in peri-urban and rural communities across the province were served in this way. The KZN Response team also facilitated the distribution of a further 11 354 hampers supplied by the Heal Our Land initiative. These brought relief to another 45 416 persons. Five schools which had been looted received support during the operation and 3102 learners were fed. Commenting on the response phase of the mammoth exercise, head of the Disaster Relief Unit, Cathy Whittle, said: “We as the KZN Response Team organised ongoing outreaches, managing trucks full of donations and distributing food and essential items to affected communities. We strongly believe that we needed to act fast with structure in order to help those in need.”

The Domino Foundation is a registered NPO and PBO with a desire to see individuals and communities within South Africa living in dignity, justice, hope and purpose. Through their 8 focused community transformation initiatives, Domino directly impacts the lives of over 13,500 individuals daily, across KZN.