17 December 2002

Namibia: 'Orphan Tax' On the Cards

Namibians will have to pay a special 'orphan tax' from April next year because of the severe orphan crisis facing the country, Cabinet announced yesterday.

Namibia has some 82 671 orphans and the figure is expected to skyrocket to 251 054 by the year 2021 because of HIV-AIDS.

The weekly Cabinet bulletin yesterday said Finance Minister Nangolo Mbumba had been asked to establish an Orphan and Vulnerable Children (OVC) Fund and to introduce a levy from the 2003-04 financial year to sustain the Fund.

It is not clear how much each working Namibian will have to contribute to the Fund that will be merged with ones already administered by the Ministry of Health and Social Services and the Ministry of Basic Education, Sport and Culture.

In Zimbabwe there is a three per cent AIDS levy on income.

About 96 million Zimbabwean Dollars (N$13,7 million) was embezzled from the AIDS Levy Fund this year, according to media reports.

Women Affairs and Child Welfare Minister Netumbo Ndaitwah told Cabinet that she had been flooded with enquiries and requests from all corners of Namibia asking for advice on what to do to help children in dire need of care and protection.

She recently went to 12 regions and visited 41 houses headed by children and youth in their late teens or early twenties and some by pensioners.

"Besides the shortage of food in some houses, one wonders how long these children can take care of each other emotionally, especially when the youngest reaches the puberty stage. To feed their siblings, the elder girls are forced to sell their bodies in exchange for money," Ndaitwah told Cabinet.

In the seven northern regions, 95 per cent of children visited have lost both their parents.

In the southern regions the majority have lost their mothers, while the fathers do not care for them.

Most surviving parents were unemployed.

During her visits, Ndaitwah found that policies and regulations adopted by Cabinet were not implemented in the same way in all parts of the country.

"Vulnerable children are excluded from education, health care, grants, etc, because of how those responsible interpret, practice and manage institutions and services that are much needed for the full development of children," she told Cabinet.

Cabinet has asked the Ministries of Basic Education, Sport and Culture and Women Affairs and Child Welfare to work out a mechanism to accommodate children in dire need of care in hostels and ensure that those children remain in school.

While the Minister of Finance finalises the orphan tax, Cabinet instructed Ndaitwah to find suitable foster parents for child-headed houses and to give them financial assistance through a proper monitoring system that will ensure that the orphans are not neglected.

It also called for the registration of all OVCs "without impediments such as lack of identity documents" by the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Cabinet said a national census on orphans will be conducted by the National Planning Commission.

Schools will be encouraged to employ counsellors or social workers to counsel children.

Cabinet also approved the establishment of a Permanent Task Force on OVCs from the management cadres of: The Office of the President; The Office of the Prime Minister; Ministry of Information and Broadcasting; Ministry of Basic Education, Sport and Culture; Ministry of Health and Social Services; Ministry of Finance; Ministry of Regional and Local Government and Housing; Ministry of Justice; Ministry of Home Affairs; Ministry of Women Affairs and Child Welfare; Ministry of Lands, Resettlement and Rehabilitation; Office of the Attorney General; and the National Planning Commission.

Representatives of non-governmental organisations that were already involved with OVC would be co-opted in the Permanent Task Force.

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