Focus Area

Early Security and Safety

Innovation Lever

Existing Product, Platform or Service


 Proof of Concept



Short descriptor

The Ubunye Foundation Trust (Ubunye) is a well-established rural development trust whose work focuses on reaching the most vulnerable families and children within rural communities in South Africa’s Eastern Cape region. They are known for their holistic community development approach. 

The Problem

Ubunye’s priorities are determined by those of the communities it works with. A reported key problem resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic has been a lack of food and water supplies. Communities also cited lack of access to infection control measures and lack of continued learning opportunities for children under 5 years old, as key challenges

Research shows links between food insecurity and the increased likelihood of children witnessing and experiencing violence or aggression, as well as poorer caregiver mental health resulting in an inability to provide emotional support to children. In a 2019 South African study, men living in households that had recently experienced food insecurity were found to have double the odds of perpetuating intimate partner violence than those who had not recently experienced food insecurity. 

The Response

Ubunye immediately leveraged new and reserved funding to enable them to work with 16 of the 45 Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres in the Ngqushwa rural area. At the time of investment, the ECD centres were prohibited by the nationwide lockdown laws from operating,  but were adapted to be used as community food distribution depots. The ECD practitioners linked to these centres were then deployed in communities through weekly home visits. 

During these home visits ECD practitioners:

  1. Identify vulnerable children (focus here is on food security and hygiene needs)
  2. Report information to Ubunye on needs
  3. At next visit, deliver food and hygiene supplies
  4. Briefly screen children for illness, abuse and any other physical/psychological concerns
  5. Report back to Ubunye for further intervention or linkages to care

This intervention is centred on the ECD practitioner as a trusted community member. ECD practitioners are allocated 30 families and visit these families once a week. These practitioners are trained on monitoring physical and emotional health and identifying problems of abuse and neglect. Each ECD practitioner reports on their visits to households by WhatsApp messaging and calling Ubunye’s Field Officer and Programme Coordinator.

Innovation Edge’s additional Covid-19 rapid response funding is being used to extend the reach of this programme to include all 45 ECD Centres in the area. This ensures a greater spread of children being reached by the child protection surveillance and reporting structure. Additional ECD centre practitioners are being trained to screen children and are being provided with data to enable the use of Whatsapp as the mechanism for reporting cases to Ubunye for referral to specialist services. 

Why We Invested

Working with Ubunye offered Innovation Edge the opportunity to develop and test replicable models of service delivery in some of the hardest to reach communities in South Africa. The funding feeds into an existing model, which will enable more families to be reached and impacted immediately. 

There is also a major concern around the retention of the ECD workforce in light of the closure of ECD centres due to Covid-19 pandemic restrictions. Lack of income and feelings of being forgotten are likely to result in practitioners seeking alternative employment opportunities. This solution puts ECD centres and teachers at the heart, utilising these valuable workers and affording them the opportunity of continued employment.

The Project Team

Dr Katy Pepper is the Director of Ubunye and holds a PhD in public health, specialising in infectious disease and its impact on communities.