San fall through the cracks

03 June 2019 | Government

The process of identifying and registering drought relief food beneficiaries in Ohangwena has excluded marginalised people in the region, despite a communication from the Office of the Vice-President that they must also be included.

All regional councils had been told to include marginalised communities in the drought relief registration process, but in Ohangwena that has not happened.

Ohangwena has one of the largest populations of marginalised people, who are living in abject poverty in isolated communities.

Ohangwena regional council chairperson Erickson Ndawanifa confirmed the region has not included the San in its drought relief registration efforts, because they had not received any communication to do so. However, this is at odds with comments by chief regional officer Fillipus Shilongo, who said they received the communication and that the San are included through a previous government database.

“We did not get any correspondence saying that we must include the San people in the drought relief registration. These people have a programme that give them food under the Office of the Vice-President, therefore, we are not aware if their programme is on hold and we need to include them in the drought registration,” Ndawanifa said.

“That is why we did not put in any effort to register them. All we know is that the programme is running and the drought relief is just for the other people, as usual. I think if that is the case we need to engage the presidency to find out whether the programme is on hold or it will run parallel.”

Government has already made an announcement that households with a combined income of more than N$2 600 will not qualify for state drought assistance, which has effectively excluded even low-level civil servants and others from the process.

On 10 May the Office of the Prime Minister ordered regional council offices to facilitate the identification and registration of beneficiaries and they were given until 16 May to submit the names. The identification was being done by village headmen and drought committees established at villages.

Ndawanifa said when they were notified by the OPM, they were not ready to produce accurate information in one week so they asked for an extension until 24 May to make the submission.

He said the extension came after he realised that if they rush, as per the request, they would not be able to produce accurate data. Therefore, he first called the regional disaster risk management committee to look into how severe the region is affected by the drought, and how prepared they are terms of those affected.

Shilongo said the extension was to ensure that everybody was included.

“In Ohangwena we do not have any issue with marginalised people, as they are all catered for in the drought relief registration like any other person. It is true that the communication from the OPM was late and we asked for an extension, just to make sure the marginalised are also included,” Shilongo said.

“Even if they are not registered from the constituencies, we already have their database from their development planner. Therefore, there is no need to go and register them.”

Oshikoto and Oshana said they have registered marginalised communities despite the communication not indicating whether the current government programme that caters for them will be stopped or not.

Namibian Sun could not get hold of the deputy director responsible for marginalised communities, Gerson Kamatuka.

However, regional development planner, Tomas Puleinge, said the registration process should have included all people in the region, irrespective of their social status.

“Those people do not belong to the vice-president’s office, they are inhabitants of those constituencies. They need to be treated like any other person,” Puleinge said.

Cabinet has announced that N$572.7 million is needed for a comprehensive drought relief intervention to assist drought-affected communities.

ILENI NANDJATO

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