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COVID-19’S FORGOTTEN CHILDREN…STUCK IN STADIUMS FOR TWO YEARS AND COUNTING

 

By: Justicia Shipena 

The homeless people staying in Katutura Youth Complex and Khomasdal Stadium in Windhoek say the government has forgotten them.

When the Covid-19 hit Namibia in 2019, there was a need to decongest some informal areas in the City of Windhoek due to the high risk of infections.

They have since been staying in the stadiums – forgotten and left to hustle for themselves.

They told The Villager that a few of them living in the decongestion camps do not have a family.

One of them said he lost his twin children at Khomasdal stadium due to the current living conditions they found themselves in. 

“Food is the only thing they bring for us sometimes; at least they should give a piece of land, so we put our shacks on and then we know we have a responsibility to look after,” he said, adding that he has been living the stadium for nearly two years.

Some said they don’t feel secure and safe because infrastructure is falling apart. 

“The tents are no more closing, and they are broken. Tents are for camping, but we are using them as houses.” 

Recently, Windhoek received rain showers, and the residents say they face many challenges as the tents get flooded. 

“Once the rain has stopped, we have to hang our mattress in the sun so that it can get dry.” 

Their main concern is the uncertainty of where to go should they be removed from the facility. 

“Here, there is also a lot of violence and drug users. These are people who come from outside and cause a commotion. We do not feel safe here.” 

“When this type of stuff happens, no one helps us, not even the security officer, because they are also afraid of these people.” 

They say the threat of contracting COVID-19 lies within the facility in terms of health. 

“People here are don’t comply with the rules. We do not wear a mask. We do not have hand sanitisers anymore, and social distancing is rarely applied.”

At the beginning of the pandemic, they say there were a lot of volunteers and members of the health ministry. However, that has come to an end. 

“But now we are only left with four volunteers who help us from their own pockets and two security officers.” 

“They told me to come to Khomasdal stadium since I can’t be on the streets and most of the things are catered for, but these services have stopped,” said another. 

City of Windhoek spokesperson Harold Akwenye told The Villager that it was not in the town’s ownership to take care of them.

“We gave our facilities to the health ministry for people to be placed there,” he said.

When asked about the facility’s management, health executive director Ben Nangombe said that it was handed over to the rural and urban ministry. 

“The facility management is now entrusted to the ministry of urban and rural development,” said Nangombe.

Urban and rural development minister Erastus Uutoni was not reachable after several attempts. He sent a message stating that he was in a meeting and again at State House.

Meanwhile, in Walvis Bay in the Erongo region, those placed in a clubhouse in a Rugby stadium in the town said they had been taken well care of; however, the conditions in which they are living continues to be a challenge. 

“The mayor helps us with water, electricity and when they food parcels they bring for us.” 

The group claims that the governor of the Erongo region has left them hanging. 

“But now he does not come here anymore, back then when he came here; he took photos and videos. He is not coming to hear our situation.” 

According to them, the Clubhouse is occupied by 24 adults with many children. 

The Clubhouse setup looks like a dining hall with beds and mattresses. 

“We all sleep in one hall, and we have a lady and a gentlemen toilet.” 

Additionally, they questioned when they would get land. 

The Villager reached out to the Erongo governor Neville Itope to find out about the matter and said it is a municipality issue. 

“They are under the care of the municipality because I would not know what exactly is the status of those people,” he said. 

Walvis Bay mayor Trevino Forbes told The Villager that the municipality is still working on a plan to relocate them. 

“The council has not even decided. We are still looking at ways to assist them,” said Forbes. 

He added that he is in contact with them frequently. 

“We discussed their future. We always go there and give them food. The initial plan I had for them did not work out, so I’m looking at an alert native plan so they can bear with us while looking at ways to assist them.” 

 

Justicia Shipena

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