No Toilets for Grape Workers

Workers at Aussenkehr grape companies still use buckets or the open veld to relieve themselves despite working for firms that have tens of millions in annual turnover.

Over 60 percent of Namibians have poor access to water and sanitation facilities and are sujected to unsafe hygiene practices.

One of the workers Taimi Kanyemba told New Era she accommodates up to seven people in her three-roomed shack made from reeds.

“There is no toilet unless we dig it ourselves. Many people here just go to the bush,” she explained, adding that people are almost always sick with diarrhoeal diseases and stomach ailments.

“Most of the people around here have TB (tuberculosis) or diarrhoea particularly the children,” revealed Kanyemba.

Workers have no access to clean drinking water and draw unpurified water directly from the Orange River for household purposes.

Kanyamba also expressed her fear of scorpions that are carried around by the desert winds in Aussenkehr.

A nurse at Aussenkehr who spoke on condition of anonymity said the biggest concern was the number of malnourished children.

“Many of our patients who are under five years old have gastroenteritis because there are no toilets. But most of the kids are underfed and do not get all the required nutrients because their parents are too busy and they are neglected,” the nurse said, adding that seven out of every 10 children brought to the clinic are either neglected or underfed or even both.

According to Karasburg Constituency Councillor Paulus Efraim the number of workers living in reed houses shoots up drastically during the peak of the harvesting season.

He said the major concern is that the reed houses are prone to catching fire when people make fire to cook their food since they have no access to electricity or safe alternative energy sources.

He further urged government ministries to invest in Aussenkehr in an effort to uplift the lives of the long suffering grape workers.

“Workers prefer to stay here. Some go home (north) during the off-season but many prefer to stay here. Now with the 660 hectares of land transferred to government we need to start investing and developing this land,” said Efraim.

About 7 000 erven have been demarcated at Aussenkehr since 2004 of which 3 000 have been connected to the sewage system and 250 erven were connected to both water and electricity networks.

“The Karas Regional Council has approved a company (Aenture Shells) from South Africa to construct two prefabricated houses and an office as a demonstration sometime this month (April). We will pay them N$400 000 for the demonstration. I have also talked to the director of NHE (Namibia Housing Enterprise) to look at these houses to see how we can improve housing for the people here,” he said.

Global reports state that about 2.5 billion people around the world don’t have access to adequate sanitation, which is one in three people.

Unicef Namibia representative Micaela Marques de Sousa last week revealed that more than half of Namibia’s population lack access to improved water and sanitation. She said this at the opening of the Southern Africa Regional Meeting on Improving Sanitation three-day workshop. De Sousa also linked the poor sanitation to the recent outbreak of cholera in the country.

According to information posted on Relief web by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs a total of 504 suspected cholera cases were recorded with 16 deaths, giving a case fatality rate of 3.2 percent since November last year up to February 10 2014.

Source : New Era