Drought Reduces Etanga Villagers To Begging

15 Nov 2016 13:20pm
By Maggy Thomas
(Nampa Features Service)

OPUWO, 15 NOV (NAMPA) – Bones of dead cattle and goats are scattered everywhere in the valleys and mountains of the Kunene Region. There is no longer an odour of rotting carcasses in the air as everything has dried up. There is no movement of animals or people around the village, especially in the village of Etanga. It is strangely quiet.
These were the scenes that recently confronted us in some of the poverty stricken villages in the Kunene Region which are hard-hit by the drought.
For about six years now, the region has not received enough rain. The result has been a complete desolation of the villages with massive losses of livestock. Villagers who have fled the areas are now dependent only on hand-outs.
The abandonment of traditional kitchens is evidence that no food has been prepared here for days, or even weeks.
Families have become desperate as they can no longer feed themselves. Children have stopped attending school simply because they are too hungry to concentrate on anything that is being taught.
Hundreds of homes have been abandoned as people fled to nearby towns in search of food. Many live in tents in their new surroundings. Scorched by the sun and enveloped by swathes of dust, they search for jobs and food.
Starvation is a pressing concern.
Climate change has robbed the Kunene Region not only of its ever-green beauty, but has forced the largely nomadic communities to lose their culture which they practice in their rural surroundings.
Villagers from Etanga, especially, have all fled to Opuwo, the regional capital where they have put enormous pressure on the town’s service delivery.
A new settlement was established between the Roman Catholic Church and Ouranda settlement in the regional capital.
Karihihitua Ngombe, 87, one of the people severely affected by the drought told Nampa he was deserted by his wife and six children after he lost 308 heads of cattle to the drought and had to flee to Opuwo to make ends meet.
Once a flourishing farmer with a healthy body, Ngombe is now a visible victim of poverty as he begs for food daily from anyone who can help him.
“This loss is too much to bear,” said a broken Ngombe while fighting back tears in an interview with this agency.
Sitting on a self-made chair with his hands on his cheeks, he could not hide his emotion as he related his ordeal to this agency.
“I lost my family, I lost all my livestock which I depended on. I do not think I will go back to Etanga as there is nothing left, come rain or wind,” said a distraught Ngombe.
Rauna Ndjaleka, also from Etanga village, has four children. Despite the tough life she has lived, Ndjaleka was a proud owner of 20 goats, but all perished due to the drought.
”I don’t have any goats left. I came to reside here in Opuwo where I came to know about the Namibia Red Cross Society soup kitchen. We currently survive on the soup kitchen,” she said while fighting back tears.
The NRCS is currently operating soup kitchens in Opuwo for drought-hit villagers. They provide one meal per day from Monday to Saturday to over 600 villagers.
Ndjaleka said on Sundays, she collects fire wood in the field which she sells to get money to buy maize meal and cooking oil to cook pap for her children while waiting for Monday to get a meal from the soup kitchen.
Veripi Tjambiru described how they use a rock wrapped in a cloth to bind their stomachs so that they do not feel hungry.
“There are instances where we are forced to boil cow dung in water and drink it to survive,” Tjambiru said.
Muahopatji Mbepela remarked: “Here in Opuwo, there is no job, no food, so we have nothing to eat and we survive on eating cow hides which we have to fight with dogs to get.”
Mariyeua Koruhama, headman of the Etanga village said they came to Opuwo because life in the village had come to a standstill as all their cattle had died of drought.
Veisapo Maundu explained that she left the village with her 11 children because she thought life would be easier in Opuwo, but had since found out that this is not the case.
“We even have to go without water for more than four days as we don’t have money to buy water from the residents,” Maundu claimed.
One 25 litre container of water costs up to N.dollars 5.
Out of the 11 children, only one child is attending school.
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Opuwo Town Council, Alfons Tjitombo told Nampa the council was aware of the influx of people because it had put the council under pressure with regards to service delivery.
“This means the council has to see to it that there are enough water points for these residents, enough ablution facilities and refuse removal services,” Tjitombo said.
He said before, the drought farmers injected a lot of money into the economy of Opuwo and they cannot turn a blind eye to their needs.
Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila said recently that some 729 000 people in the country's rural areas have been affected by drought this year, accounting for about 57 per cent of the rural population. Of these, about 596 000 are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.
Kunene Region is the third poorest region in the country, after the Kavango and Caprivi regions.