Some Consequences of Our Poverty

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By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK Access to public services as well as their quality in remote areas where these services are scarcely spread remains a concern to most rural communities in the country. Some of these services while few, people say, are also of poor quality. Access to education and health services and transport, and the impact of the HIV/AIDS pandemic on people in rural settings are some of the issues that are coming up in the Participatory Poverty Assessments (PPAs) being conducted countrywide. In the Caprivi and Omaheke regions, for instance, long distances that children have to walk to the nearest schools delay them in starting school. Where the nearest school is some 10 to 15 km away, parents only send the children to school when they are eight years old. Vekondja Tjikuzu, Deputy Director: Poverty Reduction and Human Resource Planning in the National Planning Commission, said yesterday the problems arising from this was that when children become over-age upon failing one class in the primary sector, they have to continue in informal education institutions. The same goes for the distance to health services, which at times run out of medicine or close because the nurse is attending a workshop elsewhere. There have been cases where patients die while waiting to be taken to hospitals because of the remoteness of villages such as Eiseb Block in the Omaheke region. Due to the poor quality of roads in these areas, communities have to fork out more money to travel or transport their goods to markets, which in turn affects prices. Tjikuzu said this was a problem because already people have no means to pay for services. As far as HIV/AIDS is concerned, the pandemic has affected the productivity of families so much so that a greater percentage of income around a household is used either to take care of a sick person or pay funeral related expenses. He noted that even though a family was well off, such sickness drained its resources. “If one member of the family is sick not only is their productivity reduced but it also reduces the productivity of others who have to take care of the sick one,” he added. The NPC contracted SIAPAC, Urban Dynamics and the Desert Research Foundation of Namibia to conduct PPAs in all the thirteen regions of Namibia. So far, the summary report ‘Ohangwena Regional Poverty Profile’ has been published while nine others are in the offing. The remaining three, Otjozondjupa, Kunene and Oshana will also be completed before mid-March. The assessments would help the regions in coming up with Regional Development Plans, which will form part of the National Development Plans. It is expected that regional councils will come up with their own action plans after this and also community action plans, which would help the councils to come up with funding proposals for specific projects that would benefit communities. In addition, Beavan Mubita, an economist in the Poverty Reduction and Equity Subdivision in the NPC, said the information from the PPA would be used to realign policies to suit the regions so that the impact of such policies can be measured. Mubita added that communities have raised certain concerns with some policies, which will help the commission come up with policy briefs on key issues such as finance and roads. “They will help us come up with recommendations on how the policies can best suit people in that particular area,” added the economist. The objectives of the PPAs are to enrich the analysis and understanding of poverty in the regions, broaden stakeholder involvement and increase support for legitimacy of poverty reduction strategies, empower local people and regional governments to analyse causes of poverty in the regions and present ideas for collective and individual action. They are also aimed at evaluating poor peoples satisfaction with service delivery in health, education and water supply among others. Statistics of 1993 indicate that at the time 60 to 80 percent of the population who spent their total expenditure on food were classified as poor while those who spent over 80 percent of their income on food were extremely poor. The Ohangwena PPA say the poor are better off as they may own some assets such as a few livestock while the very poor have little or no reliable income remittances, limited skills and lack education. To sustain their livelihoods and their children’s health and education needs, the Ohangwena PPA says while the poor resort to petty crime and women sell their bodies in return for basic commodities, children are asked to drop out of school as coping strategies.