Shaken govt steps in

The government, through the Office of the Vice-President, has finally stepped in at Omundaungilo in the Ohangwena Region where a small community has had to endure conditions of unimaginable domestic squalor and neglect.

29 October 2018 | Social Issues

Following Namibian Sun's exposé more than 20 months ago and a recent follow-up highlighting the plight of the San people who have been living in deplorable conditions for years, government contractors last week raced to Omundaungilo to erect dozens of corrugated-iron structures to replace the makeshift rag tents.

The elderly people, some as old as 103 and suffering from blindness or chronic illness, had been occupying the deplorable structures at the settlement for years.

The Office of the Vice-President set aside N$800 000 to provide corrugated-iron huts to the community. Besides erecting 25 huts, the government will also provide the community with drinking water.

When Namibian Sun visited the community on Saturday, it looked all new, with the younger community members in high spirits and helping the contractors.

The control administration officer in the Office of the Vice-President, Aaron Clase, told Namibian Sun that the huts might not be the best housing option available but they were a quick solution to restore the dignity of the poor residents.

He said he arrived in Ohangwena at the beginning of last month and held several meetings with officials from various government ministries, offices and agencies, who all needed to play a role in improving the lives of marginalised communities.

“We know that the government has made no provision for giving these people zinc houses, but this is just our fastest and most affordable response toward the improvement of these people's lives. At least their living conditions will improve a bit while we are looking at a long-term solution that may need huge budgeting,” Clase said.

“We believe in development for the people, by the people, so no tender was awarded. We are doing the work on our own with the assistance of the community itself.

“We are doing this as a skill transfer initiative so that after handing the houses over, the community will be able to maintain their structures on their own. At the end of the project we will also give them allowances for the job they have done.”

The improved structures will come as a relief to the San people, who had given up on the possibility of better lives. Most of the elderly at Oshipala settlement are either blind or suffering from an assortment of chronic illnesses.

Many of the residents, including children, do not receive any form of government grant and continue to suffer in isolation from the rest of the so-called Namibian house.

Old promise

In February 2017 when Namibian Sun first reported on the conditions at Omundaungilo, a high-level delegation led by the deputy director of the marginalised community division in the Office of the Vice-President, Gerson Kamatuka, accompanied by regional governor Usko Nghaamwa, regional councillors and other government officials, visited the settlement and it was promised that their situation would improve.

Clase said during that visit an assessment was done. “Before we started the work on 17 September, we came here with regional stakeholders. We asked these San people if they are okay with the zinc houses and the majority gave us the go-ahead. They started identifying where their houses would be established,” he said.

The leader of the community, Sadrah Amupolo, said they were happy about the new development, especially that it came at the beginning of the rainy season.

“Gone are the days when our old people and children used to suffer bad weather conditions. The rain has started and our people have already started hiding in the already finished structures. We are very happy,” Amupolo said.

Clase added that he had observed that many of the people suffer from an assortment of chronic illnesses.

“I think the government needs to train a community health worker from this group to be responsible for these people. That is the only way we can improve their health condition.

“At least they would be able to trust a person from their group with their personal problems and that person would report their health conditions at the clinic,” he said.

Most of the children at the settlement also don't attend school.

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