13 July 2011

Namibia: Floods Aftermath 'All We Are Asking for is Food to Eat'

Ongwediva — Floods water levels in the north may have dropped and for many people, life seems to have gone back to normal.

However this is not the case for flood victims who were not only displaced by floods, but whose livelihood, including their crops, were completely destroyed. The aftermath is more difficult as reality is now hitting home.

The months between May and August are normal harvesting months for mahangu in the north.

The majority of people in the regions, formerly known as Owamboland who live in the rural areas, totally depend on mahangu as their staple food -and nothing else.

Other types of food consumed with mahangu are animal products that culturally contribute minimally to food security in the area.

Among the hardest hit are families of Fillipus Timoteus and Klaudia Johannes whose homesteads are situated at Omatando and Okatope villages on the outskirt of Ongwediva.

Timoteus' family has nothing good to talk about the floods aftermath.

"We have nothing to be happy for. We have lost everything. Our food and crops have been washed away, our fruit trees have been destroyed, what is good about that? We have nothing good to talk about floods or its aftermath," said Anna Johannes-Timoteus, Fillipus Timoteus wife.

The family of Timoteus consists of 14 people, including four children under the age of five, three school-going children. The rest are unemployed youth.

Timoteus, a physically disabled man, is the only breadwinner as he is employed as a cleaner in government.

Located at Omatando Village which was recently proclaimed as part of Ongwediva town, Timoteus' homestead is the worst hit in the village.

The whole plot of mahangu where they also spent resources and energy to cultivate was all washed away, leaving this family with less than 5 kg of mahangu for the rest of the year.

"So far we have only received a total of 20 kg of maize meal and two750 ml bottles of cooking oil, which we received on two different occasions from the flood relief programme," lamented Johannes-Timoteus.

The family also owns another mahangu field at Onamwoolo village in Ohangwena Region, but there the situation was worse as they did not harvest even a grain of mahangu.

For a house of a man on clutches who is only employed as a cleaner, one cannot dispute the fact that Timoteus is a hard working man.

But the remains of huts that have collapsed at the homestead can only reflect his hard work.

The whole homestead was underwater and the family had to vacate and get accommodation from neighbours.

"We had beautiful furniture. Tate worked hard and managed to buy a modern bed and a cupboard, but when water penetrated our bedroom, we could not save the wardrobe.

Even some of the clothes were washed away," said Johannes-Timoteus.

Apart from the huts, more than 10 pawpaw threes at the home were uprooted by flood waters.

The family said they worked hard to plant and maintain the fruit trees, hoping they would be a source of income and supplementary food.

Floods however destroyed them all, leaving the family with trunks full of unripe pawpaw fruits.

Despite all that they have lost, Timoteus' family is not asking for more, all they want is food and sand to lift up the ground inside their homestead.

"We voted for our government in good faith and we did not ask for anything over the years that we have been voting -exclusively for our ruling party. It is time for our government to return the favour. All we want, especially for now is food," said Timoteus.

Klaudia Johannes also has the same request from the government.

Johannes, an unemployed single mother, only managed to harvest less than 10 kg of mahangu from her field. Unlike Timoteus's family, this family of seven did not receive any food from the government.

The only source of income comes from matangara (tripe) that Johannes sells as kapana. Johannes' homestead was also destroyed and all she is concentrating on now is rebuilding her homestead and her family life.

"When the water level was very high, I could not sell kapana because the butchery where I used to buy matangara from had closed because it was under water. It is only now that I am trying to start all over again," she said.

Despite of the flooding which affects her house year-in-year-out, Johannes still wants to stay at her home, maintaining that it is closer to the school for her children, hospital, shops and town where she can sell her kapana.

"All I want is the authorities to find me a mahangu field at far villages where I can produce food, but I should be allowed to live here."

She adds: "We need food. I tried to catch fish and sell it in exchange for mahangu but people are not interested because fish is all over."

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