‘Poverty Aggravates HIV/Aids’


By Surihe Gaomas WINDHOEK “HIV/Aids campaigns don’t help people, because even if people hear about this disease, they still don’t fear it because it is the poverty that affects them. Government must therefore help people get out of poverty first.” These concerns were expressed by director of Falisana National Welfare Organisation, Obrien Liwela who has spent his whole life championing the plight of Aids orphans and vulnerable children in the country. With the devastating impact of HIV/Aids, increasing numbers of children are left orphaned as their parents end up dying as a result of HIV/Aids related illnesses. Currently, there are 80 000 orphans and vulnerable children in Namibia and this number is expected to increase to approximately 250 000 children under the age of 15 by the year 2021. As a result, the growing number of OVCs is considered one of the major developmental challenges facing the country. However, as part of its efforts to assist these children, Falisana, which stands for Family Life Services Association of Namibia, has for the past 13 years been working to improve the living standards of orphans and vulnerable children. Liwela says HIV/Aids can be addressed if efforts are made to first address poverty and unemployment levels in the country. These he says are social factors that contribute to the spread of the pandemic. “Our organisation does not believe much in campaigns, but rather helping and caring for the people infected and affected by HIV/Aids,” said the director. He noted that due to poverty, some people have resorted to selling their bodies in exchange for money, resulting in them contracting the HIV virus. In light of this, Liwela says, time has come for Namibians to take care of the less privileged. Falisana first started off in the Caprivi Region in 1993 under the founding president, the late Oliver Ndala. Liwela later took over as director. He explained that “government can look into the salaries of poor people” and in doing so help them out of poverty. Liwela finds satisfaction in helping the vulnerable and less fortunate. “If you help people, you gain more knowledge and wisdom from the community you serve,” he said. Liwela feels that at times tribalism and favouritism play a role when it comes to distributing resources to charity organisations. “The people administrating this process are the ones sometimes bringing the problem,” he said, adding that it should be carried out fairly. Last year, the organisation set up an orphan village in the squatter settlement area of Babylon. This village caters for 37 OVCs from Okuryangava, Babylon and Okahandja Park area.