The department spends 37 per cent of its annual budget funding projects aimed at minimising poverty among disadvantaged communities in the province.
“We have people on the ground who are helping us locate such families and investigate the situation. If our investigation reveals that the family qualify to get assistance, we intervene,” department spokesperson Ronnie Masilela said in an interview on Tuesday.
Masilela was responding to an enquiry which resulted in the department helping the family of Stanley Selale, 32, from Bushbuckridge, Mpumalanga. Selale lost his job when he developed elephantiasis in 2009.
The disease caused his right leg to more than double in size, forcing him to stay at home without any source of income.
Masilela said the department gave Selale a voucher to buy groceries for three months while the department finalised his social grant.
“We sent a social worker [there] and our investigation confirmed that Selale is suffering from the disease. He will use the voucher to buy food for himself and his family while we are still preparing for his disability grant,” said Masilela.
He said families in similar situations were assisted through community-based projects, including home-based care centres and others. Selale said he could not believe his eyes when a social worker arrived at his home.
“I am very excited that government is helping me in these trying times. I really appreciate the help that they offered me and I believe that they will continue supporting me until I get better,” said Selale.
He said his life turned for the worst when he lost his job because of his condition.
A few days after the doctor told me about the disease I got so sick that I could not even walk. I lost my job and lots of things in my life because of this disease. When the leg is painful my stomach and my head also hurt,” he said.
Elephantiasis is caused by parasitic worms. The disease is characterised by a thickening of the skin and underlying tissues. In men, the legs and genitals tend to be affected.
Masilela urged families and community members to come forward if they are in these types of situations.
“We are also urging everyone who sees their neighbour living in poverty because of a similar situation to telephone us. We do advertise in the media about the help that people can get from our department, but a lot of people do not get the message,” said Masilela.