Erongo soldiers on despite budget cuts

By Jade McClune

DESPITE deep budgetary cuts, Erongo Regional Council (ERC)aims to undertake several ambitious upgrades to water and sewage infrastructure in the region. At its meeting last Friday, the Council approved an operational budget of N$64.2 million and a capital budget of N$40.8 million for the year ahead.

Last Friday, the ERC approved a budget for 2019/20 of close to N$105 million. It was noted that of the N$64.2 million allocated to the operational budget, roughly two-thirds would be used to cover salaries at the ERC, leaving only one-third for operational costs.

The capital budget of N$40.8 million would be directed at key infrastructure projects, such as water and sewerage network upgrades at Omatjete and the installation of services to shackdwellers at Wlotskabaken ahead of the formalisation of a new township in the area.

The ERC would also undertake road upgrades at Uis, upgrade water pumps at Otjimbingwe, and install new water pipelines at Okombahe. The chairperson of Erongo Regional Council, Cllr Hafeni Ndemula, said the ERC further plans to establish new townships at Wlotskabaken to the north of Swakopmund, at Okombahe and Otjimbingwe. The townland boundaries of Uis would also be extended.

Ndemula, in his address to the council last month said budget consultations with the Ministry of Urban and Rural Development had been conducted and that ERC would have to make do with less than previous years.

But “I am confident that we will carry out our tasks and activities with the same passion and dedication as the years before. I am, however, delighted that the capital projects budget will not be too much affected as the operational budget.”

Foodbanks to be set up

At the time he also stressed that Erongo was struggling with the impact of drought and that at least two food banks would be set up at two towns in the region. Ndemula remarked that, “Erongo Region is one of the most drought affected regions in the country” and reported that Deputy Prime Minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah had visited the region in May to acquaint herself with the situation on the ground.

A further stakeholder consultation meeting took place on 10 May, where the Deputy PM was briefed on the situation in the region and that of farmers, “more especially on the quest for mutual cooperation and coordination to lessen the burden on the communal farmers,” he said.

Ndemula reported that also on 10 May, Poverty Eradication Minister Zephania Kameeta held stakeholder consultations regarding the rollout of the food bank programme in the region. Swakopmund and Karibib were identified as towns where food bank centres would be set up to serve needy residents.

Farming units

The Ministry of Land Reform has also finalised the allocation of farming units in Erongo region to be allocated to beneficiaries. In total, four units were allocated, he said in June. Two units were allocated to Erongo residents, while the other two units were granted to beneficiaries from other regions. All successful candidates would be invited to attend compulsory training in due course, but the beneficiaries had to occupy their farming units within 30 days of receiving their allotment letters.

Response to HEV epidemic

Adding to the woes of authorities in the region was the recent outbreak of Hepatitus E, which has seemingly not yet been fully brought under control. Dr Bernard Haufiku, the national coordinator of the Hepatitis E outbreak response campaign had visited the region, accompanied by the representative of a German biotech company called Ecabiotect, which specialises in biological disinfection products.

“The aim of the visit was to conduct a situational analysis of the outbreak-affected areas in order to establish the needs of affected communities pertaining to hygiene and sanitation and how Ecabiotect would assist. The team visited the DRC informal settlement to acquaint themselves with the situation.

“We are once again urged to advocate the importance of hygiene and sanitation and encourage our respective communities on the usage of sanitisers at all times,” Ndemula suggested.