Namibia: Crutch-Bound Woman's Battle to Survive

In 2018 Martha Jacob's life was turned upside down when she was allegedly assaulted by one of her traditional beer customers in Windhoek's Havana settlement.

The attack left Jacob (42) permanently disabled and unable to work.

A family member usually helps Jacob to brew beer to earn a living, but under the current Covid-19 lockdown stage, they are prohibited to sell alcohol.

The Namibian recently visited the crutch-bound Jacob at her home at the Havana informal settlement in Windhoek.

Jacob says she spends most of the day lying on a single bed in the corner of a two-roomed shack.

Jacob says leaving home is an extremely difficult task as her shack is on top of a hill and the gravel slope down the hill is slippery.

The single mother of three says she was assaulted in 2018 by one of her regular customers when she rejected his sexual advances.

The customer owed her money for ombike, she says, but insisted she should have sex with him before he would give her the money.

Jacob says she is still struggling to come to terms with what happened.

When she refused the customer's proposal, she called for people outside her shack to help her, but the man cornered her.

"He kept blocking my way. I asked him to move, but he didn't. He wrestled me to the ground and my leg broke when I hit the floor," she says.

On top of this Jacob's right kneecap shattered, resulting in a knee that cannot bend.

She says the man was arrested after the incident, but was released on bail.

The case is pending, she says.

Since the attack, Jacob has been admitted to the Windhoek Central Hospital four times hoping to have surgery on her leg, but was sent home each time, she says.

"I was sent home every time due to 'lack of supplies'," she says.

Jacob says the language barrier has also been a major obstacle as staff members of the hospital only spoke English, which she does not understand.

"If I had money, I would have had surgery and would perhaps be walking by now," she says.

"The hospital said the operation would cost N$30 a minute and would take eight hours. This comes to N$14 400 - excluding other costs," she says.

Jacob lives with three other adults and four children.

They shared a one-roomed shack until it was recently extended with the help of community members.

Jacob has to relieve herself in a bucket, which her cousin, Peneyambeko Ekandjo (30), usually empties.

"Living in a one-roomed shack was very unhygienic, because she would use the bucket in the same confined space we all shared.

It also didn't give her any privacy," said Ekandjo.

The family received a N$3 000 loan from a community member to add another room to the shack.

They have to repay the loan by August.

"We planned on repaying the loan from the proceeds of liquor sales, but we cannot sell because of the ban," she says.

Jacob usually buys ombike from Angola to sell in Windhoek, which she also could not do due to the closure of borders.

Kotokeni Mbango, a member of the Brandon Simbae Samora Machel Extension 7 committee, says there was an urgent need to extend the shack for the safety of all occupants.

The committee was involved in the process of extending Jacob's shack.

"There are many people in this community who have fallen victim to hepatitis E, so the extension of the shack was important to curb the spread of the disease," he says.

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