In the wake of severe government budget cuts, survivors of Gender-Based Violence (GBV) are grappling with a critical lack of support and services. The National Treasury’s decision to slash the health budget by 4.9% for 2023/2024 has triggered a domino effect, with provinces urged to implement austerity measures, leaving GBV service providers in a state of distress.
The repercussions of these cuts are notably felt in the Western Cape, where staff at Khayelitsha District Hospital’s Thuthuzela Care Centre disclosed the adverse impact on their services. Allegedly, management directives have resulted in a freeze on hiring locum doctors and nurses, affecting the provision of essential care for GBV patients.
One concerning directive involves referring GBV patients, requiring specialized care, to emergency facilities, potentially jeopardizing the crucial 72-hour window for HIV medication administration and evidence collection.
The Western Cape Health Department acknowledges the challenges and has implemented temporary measures, enlisting agency services to maintain operations. According to spokesperson Byron La Hoe, this interim solution aims to reduce waiting times until full operational capacity is restored.
However, GBV Non-Profit Organization (NPO) executive director Bronwyn Moore paints a grim picture, citing looming austerity measures that threaten a significant reduction in conditional grants. Moore highlights the strain on service providers, now tasked with handling both sexual and domestic violence cases, leading to overwhelming caseloads.
“With the austerity, there won’t be new social workers appointed to assist us. So, services are going to suffer. The numbers are increasing. The trauma is increasing, and the budgets are decreasing,” warns Moore.
In the Eastern Cape, Doctor Lesley Ann Foster, executive director of Masimanyane Women’s Rights International, raises concerns about the shortage of doctors exacerbating the challenges faced by GBV survivors. The lack of timely and optimal services due to inadequate medical staff poses a significant hurdle.
Dr. Foster emphasizes that the sector, already grappling with systemic failures, now faces additional financial strain. The New GBV Response Fund, designed to support survivors, is seen as a potential solution, but Dr. Foster acknowledges that more needs to be done.
“Overall, the GBV sector continues to struggle to secure enough funding to meet the extent of the problem we have with GBV in the country,” she states.
As the sector grapples with these challenges, systemic failures prompt service providers to turn to civil society for assistance, further highlighting the urgency of addressing the impact of government budget cuts on crucial services for GBV survivors.