Uncertain Future for Omega 1

A FEW days before the Namibia Red Cross Society (NRCS) soup kitchen at Omega 1 Village closed last month, Mathew Clemance sat quietly, arms on his knees, hugging a folded maize meal sack and staring straight at the entrance of the gated clinic.

Clemance was just 10 years old when Red Cross officials realised that he was severely malnourished and lived in poverty in August last year when the soup kitchen was opened.

Even in March, a quick glance showed that the malnutrition had ravaged his skin, leaving it scarred.

Crouching, with most of his weight planted on his knees, one could discern that his muscles had grown ger when he lifted his body in response when a volunteer calls him inside.

Closeby, Kakwenga Kakwenga (11) and his sister Rukunde Kakwenga (3) also sat, waiting.

Kakwenga weakly taps his sister’s shoulder to wake her up.

But every now and then, Rukunde’s eyes involuntarily shut and just when she seems to be dozing off, a little nudge from Kakwenga wakes her up again.

These were just three of about 300 other hungry beneficiaries, most of whom children who frequented the soup kitchen to be fed.

Although the primary beneficiaries of the NRCS project were children under the ages of 12, almost half the village’s population depended on the soup kitchen for food.

According to NRSC officials, the situation in Omega 1 is very acute as hunger and HIV-AIDS have taken their toll.

Kavango NRCS regional manager Julieta Ferreira said there were seven cases of malnourishment, while 65 pregnant and breast-feeding mothers, three orphans, 20 elderly and disabled persons as well as 60 others on chronic medication lived in abject poverty.

“Out of the 300 registered beneficiaries, seven were found to be severely malnourished at the inception of the soup kitchen,” she said.

The seven were screened in March and their nutritional status was found to have returned to normal again.

Ferreira said although the soup kitchen playing a big part, a lot still needs to be done to bring employment to the area.

According to NRCS official Ngangula Rufinus, who is responsible for food distribution in the Kavango East Region, most villagers at Omega 1 are unemployed, while some work on a Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry farm located 20km from the village.

Rufinus said the unemployment rate is high because Omega 1 is in a conservancy area where hunting is forbidden.

“Most villagers are San people and they do not know how to do traditional farming. They depend mostly on hunting for food. Those who have small pieces of land do not know how to manage them even though the government has trained and taught them how to cultivate crops,” said Rufinus.

Rina Hashipala (53) and her husband Bonives Kaye (57), who have lived in Omega 1 since 1995 are among the villagers employed as casual farm workers. They earn about N$20 per day for cultivating, weeding and harvesting crops.

This year, however, both Hashipala and her husband have not earned anything since the farm did not produce crops because of the drought.

“We are starving this year because we did not do any work. We have no money to buy food,” said Hashipala in desperation.

Without any income, Hashipala, Kaye and their grandchildren, Dicson and Dawid Mayanga (7), depend on the soup kitchen as their main source of food. Unfortunately for them, the soup kitchen in Omega 1 is now closed.

According to Ferreira, soup kitchens were only opened as part of an emergency drought relief and a social welfare initiative by the NRCS, Pick n’ Pay Namibia and the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation who raised funds to feed about 780 000 people in Kunene, Kavango, Ohangwena and Oshikoto.

“The soup kitchen closed down at the end of March. Right now there are no plans to re-open them since it was just part of the campaign to help people most hit by the drought,” she said.

About N$493 607 was raised for all the three kitchens at Rundu, Omega 1 and Nkurenkuru between August 2013 to March 2014.

Source : The Namibian