WINDHOEK – When a group of nurses visited the Schuckmannsburg flood relocation centre in the Kabbe Constituency in Caprivi during the last flood season, one incident brought tears to their eyes - an unkempt girl, covered with human excreta, sheltered in a grass coop and afraid of other human beings.
Emaciated and with chapped lips, the girl with albinism could barely stand while septic sores oozing with pus covered her body.
And as a result of suspected systematic abuse and neglect at the hands of her family, the 16-year-old girl looked like she was only six years old.
Besides being stunted physically and mentally, the girl who does not attend school, soils her bedding and her clothes, a plight that is probably compounded by reports that her mother eloped to Muyako with a fisherman when she was barely out of her nappies, deserting her, her two siblings and her sickly husband.
The man, who has since remarried, seems to have acquired a wife who does not care about him or his children but only her own children. As if this was not enough trauma for the family, the girl’s elder sister was a victim of a gang-rape involving a group of school-going boys who have not yet been arrested.
The shocked nurses were part of a team of health professionals dispatched to Schuckmannsburg to attend to the basic medical needs of the over 2902 villagers sheltered at the flood-relocation centre.
These had included 639 under-age children, 44 expectant mothers and 1208 adults whose ages ranged from 18 to 50.
Flood victims and others in the relocation camp alerted the nurses to the plight of the abused girl.
Narrating the incident, one of the nurses who had been at the scene said, “No words can explain what we saw. She had unkempt hair, her hands were covered with her own excreta and her nails were long like that of an animal. She had septic sores. She looked like a wild animal.”
When the nurses regained their composure, they bathed her, cut her hair, applied antiseptic ointment to her festering sores and cleaned her thatched hut.
Greta Mathongo, a principal social worker at the Katima Mulilo Hospital, confirmed the incident through Albius Maswahu, the Caprivi Regional Health Director.
Mathongo said the incident was reported to her more than once, and on three occasions she contacted Dennis Matomola, the principal social worker in the Ministry of Gender and Child Welfare at their offices in Katima Mulilo, and Matomola eventually visited the camp.
“Matomola sanctioned a team that went to Schuckmansburg and found that the abused girl had gone back to her village in the Namiyundu area,” said Maswahu.
Maswahu said Matomola’s feedback has been that the child, together with her family, have since returned to the Sabelo Village in the Namiyundu area and that, “they will make an effort to find the child at the village and follow up on her condition.
Efforts by New Era to get comment from Matomola proved futile as he was not at his desk and his mobile phone was switched to voicemail after it rang unanswered several times.
People with albinism suffer from a lack of skin pigmentation. They are believed by witch doctors to hold magical powers that make their body parts valuable for use in traditional African medicine. In Tanzania, Rwanda and other parts of Africa, their lives are endangered as they are targeted by criminals who kill them and trade their body parts in a burgeoning trade that runs across the continent.