By Anna Shilongo
A large proportion of the population still lives in abject poverty and lacks access to essential services such as potable water and health facilities, despite Namibia’s classification as a lower middle-income country.
Using the Human Development Index, which compares income with indicators of health and education Namibia placed 126th in 2004, indicating average income, as a measure of development is less relevant in Namibia than elsewhere.
It is against this background that the United Nation Development Programme (UNDP) has launched a two-year habitat project aimed at building capacity among residents of informal settlements.
The project aims at making it possible for people in informal settlements to build their own houses so that they can protect themselves against environmental challenges.
On Wednesday, a group of 18 residents from the Okahandja informal settlement completed their basic training on gender issues, environment and poverty alleviation.
Officially addressing the residents, Dr Mutjinde Katjiua from the University of Namibia (Unam) said the project would enable the less fortunate to afford a place they could call a home.
“This project will strengthen community structures and it will also create affordable permanent structures for many families,” Katjiua said.
The first phase of the project will benefit 750 households residing in the town’s informal settlement.
The first edition of the UN-Habitat Country Programme Document (HCPD) includes recommendations made during the training workshop for UN-Habitat Programme Managers (HPMs) held in Nairobi, Kenya, earlier this year
The HCPD programme document will be implemented in Namibia for an initial period of two years starting January 2008 to December 2010.
The HCPD is linked to Namibia’s United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) for the 2006-2010 periods, which coincides with the formulation and implementation of NDP3.
The HCPD is further informed by the global mandate of the United Nations Human Settlement Programme (UN-Habitat) that strives to improve the living conditions of the poor as articulated in the Millennium Development Goals.
In addition, the Town Council of Okahandja also provided five hectares of land towards the project.
Speaking on behalf of the group, Margaret Hange welcomed the gesture adding that it could not have come at a better time because the town is experiencing unemployment problems.
“People can’t even afford a house of their own and they have no means of saving up, despite the Shack Dwellers Federation and the Build Together projects efforts to provide affordable housing for residents,” she said.
With the implementation of the project, she was hopeful they would one day become owners of proper houses.
According to the residents of Oshetu informal settlement, Okahandja faces numerous challenges such as poverty, unemployment, HIV/Aids, teenage pregnancy and alcohol abuse.
” Many people in Okahandja are unemployed. There are no jobs in this town, and as a result people have given up on life, people try to solve their problems through alcohol, whether young or old, it doesn’t matter,” she said.
Hange also complained about the high rate of teenage pregnancy.
“You will be shocked if you visit our hospital, it is always young girls expecting at a tender age, children that are supposed to be in school, but now they are running around in hospitals,” she stressed.
Cornelius Shimbuli who is a youth coordinator at the town said the youths are engaged in unproductive activities because of the lack of youth centres, or creative activities that can empower them.