Ohangwena Proud of Its Steps Forward

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By William J. Mbangula OSHAKATI The Ohangwena Regional Council celebrated the 16th independence anniversary with some sense of pride following numerous significant development achievements scored so far. In an interview with New Era, the Ohangwena Chief Regional Officer, Peter Kondjeni Ndaitwa, stressed the Council’s vigour and determination to spearhead development activities in the region. Ndaitwa said many achievements in different economic and social sectors have been achieved in the past 16 years and more tangible development activities are still ongoing in the region. When it comes to agriculture, although natural conditions are not conducive for large-scale development, it is playing an important part in Ohangwena. “Agriculture provides a livelihood to the majority of the people even though output ratios are poor, natural resources are scarce and under serious environmental stress. It is against this background that agricultural practices are being improved. During the past few years, a number of agriculture centres have been established throughout the region. They are officially known as ADCs (Agricultural Development Centres) at Eenhana, Okongo, Epembe, Ondobe, Omafo, Ongenga and Ongulayanetanga.” Ndaitwa deplored the uncontrolled fencing of grazing land as one of the problems limiting proper animal husbandry management. It is not only a source of conflict among various members of the community but is causing overgrazing. As a result the regional council is considering devising controlling mechanisms to curb the problem more effectively. On the manufacturing and processing sectors, Ohangwena Region was one of the first regions to have a well-established export processing zone (EPZ) at Oshikango. With this EPZ, both the manufacturing process and trade could be conducted even though trading is much more dominant. Further development activities would be found at industrial parks at Eenhana and Ohangwena (Helao Nafidi) towns where small and medium enterprises are quite active. At independence, Ohangwena was one of the poorest regions equipped with no telecommunication facilities. At one time the Governor of the region was forced to operate from Ondangwa due to lack of telephone lines in the regional capital Eenhana. When he established himself at Eenhana he was still travelling to Ondangwa to make official calls and transmit official messages. Now this is something of the past. The area is served by telephone fiber-optic lines which run from Ondangwa to Onhuno and split towards Eenhana and Oshikango. Cellular phone services are currently available at Helao Nafidi (the combination of Onhuno, OmafoEngela, Ohangwena and Oshikango settlements), Epembe, Ondo-be, Odibo, Omundaungilo, Okongo, Omungwelume, Ongenga, Ongha, Endola and Eenhana. When it comes to roads infrastructure, Ndaitwa noted that Ohangwena is connected to the national road network via Ondangwa and Oshikan-go. This was the only tarred road in Ohangwena at independence. Currently, the 60-kilometre road between Onhuno and Eenhana is tarred. The other main road connections are gravel. Arrangements are in the pipeline to tar the following road networks, namely, the Eenhana- Oshigambo, Eenhana-Okon-go-Rundu, Okatana -Endola-Onhuno, Oshakati-Ongenga-Omungwelume and Engela Omafo-Outapi. Gravel roads under consideration and which need immediate attention are Oshaan-go-Epembe- Omuhongo, Oshaango-Uukango, Onaka-lunga-Epinga, Ongha-Ona-mukulo, Ohaingu-Onghala-Engava-Oifatumbo-Omufitu waNakashole and Ongenga-Omundudu-Endola. There are 47 more gravel roads to be considered at a later stage. Concerning the health sector, Ndaitwa noted that his region is moving towards improving the health situation of its inhabitants by expanding the health services to its people. The region has three upgraded referral hospitals at Eenhana, Engela, Okongo, and 27 clinics. On average, each clinic serves an area of 392 km which implies that 86% of the population is within 10 km of a health facility. The region has 11 registered public doctors and 102 registered nurses. This leads to a population ratio per nurse of 2 239 and a doctor ratio of 20 762. As part of health service provision more clinics are being constructed at Omuhongo, Omauni and Onamunama. Ward extensions are being done at Eenhana hospital. Education is one priority area which has been receiving consistent attention. Currently, Ndaitwa said, a Vocational Training Centre, the first of its kind in the region, is being constructed at Eenhana by the Ministry of Education. In addition, a Multi-Purpose Youth Centre was constructed in 2004 and is fully operational now. Furthermore a Junior Secondary School is being built at Ondobe. Ohangwena has 209 schools of which 141 are primary, 59 combined and nine secondary schools. The enrolment of children between 6 and 15 years of age amounts to 85% for girls and 79% for boys, rendering Ohangwena Region among the three best in the country, claims Ndaitwa. Of the population of between 3 – 6 years, 39% attend early childhood developmental centres against the highest proportions found in the country. The percentage of female learners is 50% in lower primary, 54 % in upper primary, 56% junior secondary and 52 in upper secondary school. However, education attainment is much lower in Ohangwena than the national average. This is so because the teacher-learner ratio throughout the region is a lot higher than the ideal number. Worse still, the physical facilities such as classrooms, laboratories, libraries, latrines and many others are too limited. This also includes connections to facilities such as water, telephones, electricity and roads. Water provision is another burning issue on the agenda of the regional council. For this reason a pipeline is being constructed between Indangungu and Onambutu. This is in addition to other facilities constructed previously such as rural water pipelines, boreholes and earth dams. Water supply is fairly well distributed throughout the western part of the region. When it comes to housing and settlements, the regional council has developed Okongo, Ongha, Ongenga and Omungwelume as settlements. Through the Build Together Programme more houses were built at Omungwelume, Ongenga and Okongo settlements. On maintenance of law and order, many police stations were constructed at Helao Nafidi, Okongo, Eenhana and Omungwelume as well as smaller sub-stations. Two magistrate courts were also constructed at Helao Nafidi and Eenhana. Ohangwena Region has a total population of 228 384 (2001 census) which means that about 12,5 % of Namibia’s 1,8 million people live in this region. This means 21.3 persons per square kilometre, the highest population density so far in the country. The average household size in Ohangwena is 6.3 persons, this being the highest in the country after the Kavango Region with 6.5 persons. Ohangwena Region’s population growth rate is estimated at 2.6 % (2001 census) making it one of the poorest regions in the country. “The region has the second highest poverty index and second lowest human development index. Poverty in the region is a limiting factor to development and must be seriously addressed by all sectors to improve the growth of the region,” said Ndaitwa.