An Acute Crisis adds to Unresolved Chronic Crisis


  • Penelope Engel-Hills Cape Peninsula University of Technology
  • Nicola Engel International School of Cape Town



structural violence, Covid-19 a crisis, social challenges, burden on women, crisis on crisis


Residents in a community in the South Peninsula of the Western Cape, South Africa live with the reality of unresolved challenges. The women and children of this community face a burden from the prevailing inequality and structural violence that plays out in their daily lives as high levels of unemployment, substance abuse, violence in many forms, food insecurity, high school dropout rates and teenage pregnancy. The complexities of living in this community were exacerbated by the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic and the resultant lockdown regulations that destabilised all previous notions of normality. The pre-existing social challenges can be viewed as the residents’ experiences of hazards and stressors that have been in place for years in the unequal social structures of South Africa (The World Bank 2022). In this environment, of what can be interpreted as a community in chronic crisis (Dekker et al., 2021), the addition of the acute crisis of the pandemic, posed further cumulative effects on households that impacted more seriously on those who are already the most vulnerable. This paper presents reflections on the stories of women talking about their experiences of the global pandemic to this coastal community. We aim to show the impact on their lives as members of families within their community. The analysis will utilise the phases of a crisis (Emergency Management, 2022) where the pre-crisis or prodromal phase was recognised as life in the chronic crisis of structural violence. The acute or crisis phase of the pandemic became a lens for the effects of an existing long-term crisis compounded by athe. The response or chronic phase of the acute crisis was again found to be exacerbated by the existence of a long drawn out response phase to the chronic crisis. This paper is a window into the innovative attempts by this community to cope with the immense challenges of Covid-19, followed now by the post-crisis (resolution) phase that reflects the ongoing efforts to rebuild the community in the face of the cumulative effects of the pandemic, as but a temporary diversion from the challenges of a continuous chronic crisis. The post-crisis phase remains incomplete, however, a deeper understanding of crisis upon crisis provides knowledge that can assist those implementing social interventions in this community to tackle challenges as a state of chronic crisis for residents.

Author Biography

Nicola Engel, International School of Cape Town

Registered Counsellor with Postgraduate Certificate in Education. Position is Class Teacher for Level 5.