Orphanage stranded without water as austerity bites

By Paulina Ndalikokule and Maria Hamutenya

THE Moria Grace Orphanage in Katutura’s Dolam area, which houses about 124 orphans between the ages of one and 17 years, has been without water for a month after the Windhoek Municipality disconnected their water supply over a debt of more than N$40,000.

Four to six children now have to share a small basin of water to wash their hands before their school meal. This is done to reduce water wastage.

The orphanage is trying to keep head above water after the Ministry of Education stopped funding them in 2017 amid severe austerity measures and cuts to public services. The lack of financial support has caused a lot of difficulty to the orphanage, which has catered for orphaned girls and boys up to the age of 17 since its establishment 36 years ago.

It is understood that the problem with water cut-offs and the lack of a secure supply has been going on for the past six months. When Confidente visited the hostel on Monday, the founder of the orphanage, Wilhelmina Afrikaner, had gone to a farm outside Windhoek to wash some of the children’s clothes.

“It is very challenging to get enough water that can wash all of the children’s clothes so I had to go to the farm to wash some of them,” she said over the phone. She said she was afraid that if they do not get help soon the situation might get worse.

The orphanage manager and caregiver Norris Afrikaner told Confidente that the financial crisis that they are facing started when the hostel subsidies department under the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture announced that it would stop funding them at a meeting in 2017.

Afrikaner said they were later asked to re-apply for funding but their application failed when the ministry declined to fund private hostels due to the slow economic growth the country is experiencing.

She said since then they have been experiencing intermittent water cuts by the municipality, but they were fortunate to receive a bailout from the Ministry of Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare in 2018 when they owed N$34,000.

“Ever since the financial cut off, the water was constantly being closed due to huge amounts of outstanding fees until now,” she said. Afrikaner added that for months now they have been using water from their neighbours, which they have to re-use to minimise the water needs of the hostel.

“We use the water the children bathe with or from cleaning the hostel in the toilets,” the manager said.

Afrikaner also requested financial support to help out with food and toiletries for the children.

“We find ourselves in situations where the older children need to sacrifice eating just so we can feed the young ones,” Afrikaner stressed.

She also explained that it was more difficult because none of the children receive the funding that orphans and vulnerable children normally get from government. “We have attempted several times to help the children to get even grants that the government gives to the orphans but we were never helped, we don’t know why,” she said.

Maraliza Kharises (14) who came to the orphanage at the age of five, said she too was unhappy about the situation. “We have to fetch water from the neighbours but some of them call us names, like stinky kids, something that is very heartbreaking,” she said.

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Kharises hopes government can come to their rescue.

“I want the government to come here and see what is happening to us and help us with food, sanitary pads and especially water,’ Kharises stressed.

Several incidents have been reported on whereby the City of Windhoek cut basic services to defaulting schools. In August, A Shipena Secondary school was one of the nine institutions threatened by the City of Windhoek with service cuts as the Education Ministry allegedly had an unpaid utility bill of N$55 million. The school went only one day without basic services, before the supply was restored.

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