By: Annakleta Haikera
41-year-old Jeremiah Haikombo from Tjeye Village in the Mashare Constituency, Kavango East, survived a hippo attack on Tuesday morning.
He is currently at Rundu State Hospital, recovering from severe injuries in which he lost one of his legs. Haikombo sustained multiple injuries. When speaking to The Villager on Thursday, he revealed it was a miracle he made it out of the water alive.
According to Haikombo, he was in the canoe when the incident happened. He was on his way to get water reeds to complete his homestead and also to sell some.
“I make a living by selling reeds that we get from the river,” he said. “I didn’t imagine my Tuesday would turn into a nightmare. I am a father of 6 who is unemployed. I am unable to deal with this trauma.”
Human-wildlife conflict has long been a reality for many in Namibia’s communal conservancies, particularly in the Kavango regions, where crocodiles and hippos live in close proximity to people.
Communities living close to the river suffer a great deal from wildlife. In January this year, a 43-year-old cattle herder from Nzinze in Kavango West, Abraham Hisikia, also survived a hippo attack.
Chairperson of the Kavango East Regional Council, Damian Maghambayi, previously told The Villager that human-wildlife conflict was one of the region’s biggest challenges, particularly with hippos and crocodiles.
According to the Kavango East police, 27 incidences have been reported, which include drowning, crocodile and hippopotamus attacks from April 2020 to date. Of these, there have been five deaths caused by hippos in the same period.
Councillor Cosmus Katura Kayayuka from the Musese constituency where Hisikia’s attack occurred said that residents are forced to use the river as there is no other choice.
“The major solution that we have crying for is that we have to have a pipeline where people can get water. We need the pipeline so that if people go to the river, then it will be on their own risk. Because, currently, they just have to fetch water from the river. There is no way they cannot get to the river. Water for cooking, consumption and any other usage is just at the riverside,” he told The Villager.
A water purification plant was installed in Rundu in February this year to help alleviate the burden of residents using the Kavango River.
At the launch, agriculture minister Calle Schlettwein said that supplying water to Rundu and its suburbs in adequate amounts and acceptable quality has increasingly become a significant concern and a huge challenge.