N$6m needed to send student care packages to Cuba
15 September 2020 | Education
The health ministry says it will cost the government close to N$6 million to charter a commercial plane to courier toiletries to Namibian medical students in Cuba who have been deprived since May this year.
In July, this year the health ministry informed the parents of these students that new ways were being considered to get these products to Havana after earlier plans had failed.
However, over the weekend the students appealed to President Hage Geingob on Twitter, saying that they were still waiting to receive their toiletries.
“Good morning Mr President, we are suffering. We need the bags with our cosmetics that are stranded in Namibia. Please, hear the cries of the Namibian medical students in Cuba. The bags are already packed,” one student tweeted.
Presidential press secretary Alfredo Hengari yesterday confirmed that the matter had been referred to the ministry of international relations and the ministry of higher education.
The executive in the higher education ministry, Dr Alfred van Kent, referred Namibian Sun to the health ministry.
The executive director in the health ministry, Ben Nangombe, said the ministry offered to assist out of goodwill but it proved to be a very expensive exercise.
He added that it costs up to N$3 million to charter a plane just to Addis Ababa in Ethiopia and that the quotations they are receiving for the transport of these parcels are more than this.
“We have to be frugal. If there were commercial flights then it would work but Covid-19 has made it difficult for us,” he said.
Spare no costs
Meanwhile Dylan Mukoroli, the national spokesperson for the Namibia National Students Organisation (Nanso), says no costs should be spared to make sure the students receive their supplies.
Mukoroli stressed that students are truly suffering and therefore the government must push harder to deliver these supplies to them.
“We are looking for is action from the executive director and the ministry at large. We understand they have the burden of Covid-19 but we have to learn to live with Covid-19 and the issues that are coming with it. We are not going to stop until we see the ED at Hosea Kutako sending off those parcels,” he said.
He said they understood the financial burden but no price could be put on the students who are experiencing a dire shortage of basic necessities.
“They have just received up to N$700 million to fight Covid-19. All we ask for is the necessary financial planning to use funds they have for Covid-19 to send those parcels. Even if it means the ministry must get an overdraft, the ministry must make sure they get the N$6 million to send those parcels,” he said.
Out of reach
The students told Namibian Sun that they are facing serious shortages and cannot always find these items in Cuban shops.
“Toothpaste, washing powder and sanitary pads are hard to find. They aren’t available always available in shops and when they are available, they finish within 48 hours and you might not get a chance to get any. We understand Cuba is trying their outmost best, but the Namibian government can try to help us send those bags please, we need them urgently,” the student said.
International relations acting executive director Rebecca Iyambo is yet to respond to questions sent to her.