Northern villagers cry over thirst

By Eliaser Ndeyanale at Eenghoshi

WITH no other relief from the scorching sun in sight, members of the community of Eenghoshi village sat down under a jackal berry tree near a cuca shop to share with this reporter how they are experiencing the full wrath of the devastating drought.

A few minutes into our meeting, a blue Toyota 4×4 pick-up truck stopped at the shebeen and about 30 people had crowded it while offloading containers of blackish water from it. Those in the meeting said the car brought them water from an earth dam, situated about 8km from their village.

They added that they pay N$5 per container to those who have got cars so they can get water for cooking, drinking, cleaning and also to give to their animals.

According to them this is so because their communal tap where they would get water from ran dry at the end of June, leaving them with the only option of drawing water from an earth dam situated along Ongenga–Onhuno road.

The residents also said those who get water from that tap owe N$34,000 which they are currently paying off. They further told Confidente that before they turned to that dam, they used to get water from a dam in Angola, situated about 5km from the village, which is near the Angolan border with Namibia. However, the dam is now empty.

The villagers added that the dam where they currently get water from is running out of water fast as animals too drink from there while people who live nearby have used it as a swimming pool.

“The water is dirty which poses potential health hazards,” said a community member, adding that they don’t get powder to put in the water before they drink it to protect them from water-borne diseases.

“Due to the long distance, we are forced to buy water every day from those who have got cars, because of a failure in the main pipe that supplies water to their village. We believe that there is not enough pressure to pump water in the main pipe, because there is nothing in the pipe. Even those who have taps in their houses, the taps are dry,” the residents said.

They noted that for some families who cannot afford to buy water, their containers ran out days ago. “They are thirsty and dirty. You cannot load in your jug if you have not paid. We don’t have a problem with that because they (motorists) are helping us,” another resident said.

The residents who are mainly elders alleged that they have reported the issue of water shortages to Constituency Councillor Sakaria Haimudi, but he had apparently asked them why they were afraid of dying from thirst when the situation is the same in the whole constituency.

“We have no confidence in the councillor. Even if we complain, he would say he is coming but he doesn’t. He has been saying that since January, it is September now. We are almost in December but nothing is being done,” one of the residents said.

Another said life has become difficult for them as they must buy food for their households, animal feed and water to drink. They say that even domestic taps do not produce a single drop. “Sometimes when you are sleeping, you dream of water coming from the tap. The ministry responsible should understand that this is an emergency situation. They must provide us with water.

“Our government is saying that it does not want its people to die of hunger or thirst but we are already dead. I had 36 cattle, 21 died of drought and thirst.  Now I only have 15 cattle. I know nine of them will not make it to the rainy season because there is no food.

“Last Friday, I bought water for N$170 but that water is only enough for two days. Yesterday I bought for N$170 as we speak now, that water is finished. I could have used that money to buy food for my house or animal feed but I am now buying water which I was supposed to get from the government (at an affordable price). I am  now forced to feed my animals grass from the huts in the house. “

They said that they had experienced water shortages before but it was not as bad as this year because previously the Ministry of Agriculture provided them with a tank that they could get water from. “We are happy that you came to hear our plight but if government doesn’t do anything now, next time when you come back here is when you are coming to take pictures of our dead bodies,” said one of the elders.

The village headman Erastus Haulenga (70) has appealed to central government to help them excavate an earth dam. He said he had reported the issue to the councillor’s office early this month but had not come. He said it was not only his villagers who face water shortages. “It’s many villages, such as Eeghoshi B and C, Ofenda, Iiwelekeshe, Efitu and Onakukutumba.”

Asked why the villagers did not have water for almost three months, Ongenga constituency Councillor Sakaria Haimudi, who met with this reporter in Oshakati this week, would not disclose why the community was left without a steady water supply, saying he could only answer questions when in the office. He also felt that the issue of water poverty was being used for political campaigning.

“Those people that are complaining are not Swapo members. They are using it for political reasons. When I heard that you were there, I was astounded that why is Confidente involving [itself] in politics.”

He added that this month he was called by three women complaining about thirst. “Those are the people who fed you that information,” he remarked, adding that the whole Ohangwena region faces the same problem.

Contacted for comment the next day when he was at the office, Haimudi declined to give the information telephonically saying the journalist was disrespecting his office. “I want you to come to my office so we can talk,” he insisted. About the communal tap that has been closed, the councillor said the villagers had not been paying for the water.

Contacted for comment, Namwater’s water supply executive at Oshakati Abraham Ashipala said it was news to him. He advised the community to report their complaint to the directorate of rural water supply in the Ministry of Water, Agriculture and Forestry as the entity responsible for that pipeline.