By Petronella Sibeene
While widespread rains have brought hope for a better crop and even relief from the scorching heat for residents of the impoverished squatter camp at Otavi, the rains have also brought misery and worry as their shacks leak.
And health conditions at the squatter camp have been worsened by poor sanitation.
The heavy rains battered the informal settlement last week, raising fear among residents that their houses – mostly erected from old pieces of wood, corrugated iron sheets and in some instances mere plastic – were about to collapse as the rains poured down.
But in an already poor sanitary environment, the rains have only worsened the situation.
Lucia Garoses, a resident of the squatter camp, told New Era that as a mother of five, she feared for her children’s health.
Apart from the leaking houses that also contribute to cold nights, the available ablution blocks built for the area are never cleaned and thus when it rains heavily, the raw sewerage coupled with rainwater flows all over the place.
“The toilet is blocked and it smells. When it rains it is even worse because the dirty water flows in our yards and the children do not have shoes to wear,” she said with concern.
She added that most of the times children in the area suffer from sores on the skin, fever and diarrhoea, diseases which she says are linked to poor sanitation.
In instances where the Otavi village council cleans the two ablution blocks designed for thousands of residents in the area, the rubbish collected from the toilets is dumped just outside the toilets, which poses another health hazard, Garoses said. The same dirt gets washed away by running water towards the houses, she added.
A frustrated Victoria Tsueses would not mince her words and said her complaints to the village council have fallen on deaf ears.
“We have complained to the council but nothing is being done.
“We have one tap for water to serve thousands of people here. We have these toilets that are never cleaned and the smell is killing,” she complained.
She described the squatter camp as being dirty and said the rains had led to a deterioration in health conditions.
She told New Era that most people in the area are complaining of respiratory problems because of the stench from the dirty toilets.
“I was in Otjiwarongo hospital two weeks ago and I was told I have tuberculosis. It is because of the poor sanitation here,” she said.
She alleged that the village council does not remove the waste from the area for months and with the rain, the wet garbage smells and flies are all over.
Chief Executive Officer at Otavi Village Council Esrom Joshua Shilungu said the council collects waste four times every month.
He said the heavy rains and flooding are a concern for the council, and as such he is expected to visit the squatter camps today to assess the situation and see where council can assist.
With about 5 000 residents of Otavi residing in squatter camps, the CEO also told New Era that during the financial year 2005/6, the line Ministry of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development availed N$6 million for infrastructural development in the area.
Already, the council identified an area where it is currently building houses for low-income earners.
Shilungu said the council last year June completed the registration process of residents in the squatter camp to determine the affordability of new houses.
The two, three and four-roomed houses to be built will cater for about 500 residents only. So far, 35 houses have been built and more are to be constructed.
Once that is complete, it will enable the council to provide better services to the people.
In the area where the new houses are to stand, roads, water and power networks are being constructed.