By Tapiwa Gomo in Namibia
The residents of Oshakati are appealing for help – they need more water and sanitation facilities – after floods have forced more than 37,000 people from their homes and destroyed infrastructure in northern Namibia.
“The water points are not enough and toilets are few and far between, forcing people, especially children, to use the nearby bush when nature calls. The flood water is used for household chores. We fear that this may cause diseases,” says 22-year-old Ndeshipanda Elia.
Ndeshipanda’s situation is particularly precarious. A mother of two children, her first born, now two, was diagnosed with a brain problem at birth. Her one-month-old daughter was born just one week before the floods.
“We also urgently need mosquito nets as this area is infested with mosquitoes,” she says. “We are very scared of malaria.”
And Ndeshipanda is right to be worried. A local hospital in Oshakati has also warned that the floods may trigger a resurgence in malaria because of the floodwater – an ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes.
The mother of two is currently among more than 900 people settled in Oshoopala camp just half a kilometre outside the town of Oshakati.
When the flood warning was issued, she was unable to leave with the rest of the community as her daughter was only a week old, and her son needed special care which was not available. She stayed behind with her grandmother for a week, hoping the floods would recede. Instead, the water rose to almost knee level forcing them to seek help from the town’s mayor.
The Namibia Red Cross volunteers have now welcomed them at the camp. She currently shares the tent with four other members of her family – her grandparents and two siblings.
“The conditions were hard for me as a mother of a four-week-old daughter and a two-year-old son with a special condition. The Namibia Red Cross volunteers offered us a tent reserved for people with special needs and that helped me to settle even though I could see that there were not enough tents for everyone.”
“It is not the best but we can survive. I also appreciate the visits from the Red Cross volunteers to offer support. Even though they cannot do much, their visits have helped ease the burden especially with my son. It is not easy being a mother of two young children when there are not enough supplies and facilities.”
Hundreds of Namibia Red Cross volunteers have been on the ground right from the early warning stage. They have been assisting people to relocate, distributing mosquito nets and water purification tablets, whilst carrying out health awareness campaigns to prevent a major outbreak of waterborne diseases. But the lack of adequate relief materials is beginning to worry them.
“We wish we could do more, but we are currently limited. Our volunteers are ready to take on the challenge, but we can only hope that this appeal is funded so we can save lives,” says Mrs Dorkas Kapembe-Haiduwa, Secretary General of the Namibian Red Cross.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Cross Societies (IFRC) has launched an international appeal on behalf of the Namibia Red Cross Society seeking 1.8 million Swiss francs (almost 2.4 million US dollars or 1.7 million euros) to support those in need of shelter, food and clean water.
The floods, recently declared a national disaster by the government, have been described as the worst ever experienced by the people of Oshikoto, Oshana, Ohangwena and Omusati regions in northern Namibia.
For Ndeshipanda, her dream of going back to her business to provide for her family has to wait. Her priority is to keep her children safe from the many dangers brought by the floods.