Namibia: 'Clean Water Is Everything' - Omusati Residents

20 November 2022

IT'S a few minutes after 08:00 at Okapuku village in the Anamulenge constituency in the Omusati region.

As everyone prepares to start the day, women, young girls, and boys start walking to the water canal to collect water for their homes.

One by one they tie water containers with a rope before throwing them onto donkey carts, their major mode of transport.

Inhabitants of the region say at some villages their taps have been dry since June.

At Ontamanzi, the taps have been dry since the middle of last year.

The villagers have been buying water or paying to have their buckets filled and collected at Outapi.

The Omusati region's water woes have affected both urban and rural areas, leaving a vast majority vulnerable to a lack of access to clean water and waterborne diseases.

At Okapuku, Timotheus Angula (45), a father of five, has no idea how to manage the water crisis in his community.

He says the nearest water sources, like nearby water wells and boreholes, are either broken or have dried up due to excessive use.

This forces families to spend part of their productive time looking for water, he says.

"We have been about six months without water now. At first, we thought maybe our pipeline has broken, but upon thorough inspection, we could not detect anything.

"We even made an effort to find out if our area is maybe in debt, but nothing still.

"Life without clean water is hard, because clean water is everything. Our budgets are also affected, because we now have to set aside money to buy water, including transport," he says.

Angula says severe water scarcity had become a way of life, and many are forced to travel long distances in search of clean water.

The dire situation usually drives women and girls to bear the burden of water collection, and the time spent looking for water negatively affects their education too.

Another villager, Anastasia Shilongo, says looking for water wastes a lot of her productive time as breadwinner.

"The canal is far from our houses, so I wake up early and collect water before the animals make it dirty. When the kids are back from school, they take over the task of water collection.

"Even if they have to study, they have to spare a bit of their time to go and collect water from the canal. I understand that school is important, but so is water," she says.

HEALTH HAZARD

Alma Ndeyakupi says her eight-year-old son has been missing out on school lately as he has been home with a stomach bug.

"He is always complaining of stomach pains, which I think are caused by the contaminated water collected from the canal.

"On days that I do not have enough money to buy water, we resort to the water from the canal, which is contaminated because both humans and animals drink from there.

"Some people even bath in there, and some slaughter their animals and wash off their meat in the same canal we drink from. People do whatever they want in the canal.

"Some even relieve themselves in there," she says.

Ndeyakupi says they sometimes receive water treatment sachets from the local clinics or from the Outapi District Hospital to treat the water, however, when they run out of sachets, they are forced to drink untreated water, which is putting them at risk of diarrhoea, malaria, typhoid, cholera, worms and parasites.

Shaalukeni Martin, control administration officer for the Anamulenge constituency says the entire region is affected by acute water shortages due to ageing infrastructure and low water pressure from NamWater's treatment plant.

"The NamWater treatment plant does not have the capacity to pump water to many of the rural areas in the region due to low pressure.

"NamWater has even tried to introduce rotational pumping of water to assist the villagers, but it is still not working because villagers still do not have access to potable water.

"The inhabitants' numbers have increased dramatically over the years, hence NamWater no longer has the capacity to supply all the people with water," he says.

SCHOOLS

Omusati education director Benny Eiseb says the shortage of water in the region has not disrupted teaching and learning at schools as the affected schools are supplied with water tankers by NamWater on a daily basis.

"If the situation gets worse, however, we will be forced to close down the schools, but at the moment we are doing okay, and NamWater has assured us that the matter will be rectified by the end of next week," he says.

Eiseb says some schools without potable water are depending on community boreholes.

About 40 schools are said to be without water, especially schools in the Ontamanzi constituency, which are largely affected.

Omusati governor Erginus Endjala could not be reached for comment.

The Namibian previously reported that NamWater spokesperson Michael Mikka says the situation will be rectified in due course.

He says the unavailability of water in the region is caused by the rehabilitation of the canal and the low capacity of water at the Outapi treatment plant.

The water demand in the region is also said to have surpassed supply.

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