30 Jul 2015 16:00pm
BY FAITH SANKWASA
KATIMA MULILO, 30 JUL (NAMPA) - A 27-year-old man has died of starvation at the Dairy informal settlement while others, including those who are HIV-positive, have turned to drinking tombo in a bid to fend off hunger pangs.
The deceased, identified as Bonavi Makaricha, who allegedly suffered from epilepsy, died on Tuesday after having not eaten for weeks, as he did not have any food in his one-bedroom shack.
The unemployed Makaricha collapsed and died while drinking a home-made alcoholic brew at one of the many drinking holes at the informal settlement, where several community members told Nampa this is just the tip of the iceberg, as they face a similar fate because they do not have food to eat.
The Dairy informal settlement is situated on the southern outskirts of Katima Mulilo.
Speaking to this news agency on Thursday, Village Development Committee (VDC) chairperson, Sarriet Sikobiso said women carrying their children on their backs and men, many of whom are on chronic medical treatment for HIV/Aids, high blood pressure or mental illnesses indulge in tombo as early as 07h00.
A glass of tombo costs N. dollar 1.50 at the settlement. Many say drinking it is the only way they can deal with the hunger pangs as the drink is filling.
Sikobiso said the situation has been brought to the attention of Zambezi Regional Governor, Lawrence Sampofu and Katima Mulilo urban constituency councillor, Bernard Sibalatani, but they only approved the distribution of one bag of maize meal weighing 12.5 kilogrammes, with no relish or cooking oil, to identified households at the settlement.
The community members are suffering due to a lack of food. Many who are on chronic treatment for different conditions are no longer taking their medication because of hunger, Sikobiso said.
Some of the orphans and elderly people who are eligible to receive pension and social grants are not accessing these services because they do not have birth certificates or identity documents to prove that they are Namibian citizens.
The drought relief food programme at the settlement does not benefit everyone. Those who do get food aid are only given one bag of maize meal, she said.
This news agency visited a home of a weak HIV/Aids victim and mother of three children, who said she has had almost nothing to eat for the past week.
She however takes her treatment on an empty stomach. Some medications require to never be taken on an empty stomach.
I have been sick for weeks. I continue taking my medicine on an empty stomach because I do not have a choice, she said.
Another woman, aged 27, said she has been selling her body to bar patrons and truck drivers along the Trans-Caprivi Highway, as she is unemployed but has had to find a way to fight off starvation.
I dropped out of school in Grade 5 because my parents could not afford to pay my school fees. When I came of legal age, I started to sell my body to make money so I can buy food to feed myself and my eight-month-old baby. I too go to bed hungry some days because some clients refuse to pay me, she said.
Attempts to get further comment on the situation from Sibalatani and Sampofu proved futile as their mobile phones went unanswered.