Namibia: Villagers Demand Potable Water At Clinic

21 February 2024

Mashare — A clinic at Mashare village in the Kavango East region has closed its doors due to a lack of potable water.

The clinic has been without water for more than six months, and the nurses have been relying on water containers to flush their toilets and washing equipment.

The clinic's pump, which pumps water directly from the river, got damaged more than six months ago. The village development committee, in a recent meeting with the nurses, then agreed that the clinic should be closed for the ministry to take their situation seriously. When New Era visited the clinic on Monday, the doors were closed and only a security guard on site. He said the clinic closed on Friday afternoon until further notice. The three nurses who are stationed there were not at the clinic at the time.

"I just came from Mangundu village south of this village, 15km inland, and I came for a follow-up and to come and collect medicine for my high blood ailment. To my surprise, I found the clinic closed, and now I have to walk back as I cannot afford to go to other clinics. The risk now is leaving without my medication, as my condition is critical and depends on medication," said Paulus Katanga.

"The issue at the clinic is the absence of water. Nurses don't have water to use. They have to send a cleaner or a security guard to go and fetch water from the river or elsewhere in a container. Due to that struggle, the nurses are unable to do their jobs, and it's unhealthy to work in such an environment as you know folks from all walks of life and with different ailments visit the clinic daily," said Johannes Munango, a member of the village development committee (VDC), who lives near the clinic.

Speaking on behalf of the headman of Mashare village, Johannes Mashare said the clinic assists not only Mashare village inhabitants, but also several nearby villages.

"Now that the clinic is closed, these villages are also affected. Yes, we are in support of the nurses' action as their health is at risk as the environment is not healthy at all. But now our people are also affected by the whole situation, and the ministry needs to do something fast," he stressed.

He also questioned the nurses' living conditions.

"Two nurses decided to commute from town (Rundu), which is about 40km away, and only one stays here, but is always in town. They work just because they need to, as this clinic needs a major renovation," he added.

"Their sleeping quarters need major renovations. It is dilapidated, just like the clinic, and we also want the clinic to build new toilets for patients. At the moment, patients still use pit latrines, and the nurses' toilet is the only one that is a flush toilet," he noted.

Mashare told New Era that they have suggested to the ministry that they connect water through NamWater rather than pulling it straight from the river, which is also unhealthy as the river's water is not purified and not fit for human consumption.

"The water issue at this clinic is not new. Every now and then, the water pump is getting damaged. It needs a borehole, or at least connect it to the NamWater pipeline which supplies the school next door as well as the villagers," he said.

The newly-appointed Kavango East regional health director Ida Mendai, who recently started her new role, told this publication on Monday that they have sent a team there to look into the situation.

"I just signed a trip authority for an artisan to go there. As for their water pump, we are still waiting for authorisation from Windhoek," she added.

Mendai said the delay was caused by the cumbersome procurement process, as authorisations come from the capital only.

"When I did my familiarisation when I took office as the director, I discovered that they did not have water. Last week, I received a report from the health inspector who visited the clinic, who also articulated the issue. I followed up with head office in Windhoek, and the pump was only found last week as they could not get a supplier earlier," she continued.

The ministry took a water bowser with no lid to close it off from insects and other things that could fall into the water. The water bowser is not refilled daily or weekly.

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