By Charles Tjatindi
Unemployment has been identified as the main factor that contributes to poverty in rural areas, and is manifested in a combination of factors. Such factors include limited employment opportunities in rural areas, unqualified teachers and education policies, amongst others.
This emerged during the launch of the Regional Poverty Profile for the Erongo Region, which was launched here last Friday.
The profile is based on a village-level Participatory Poverty Assessment in the region, which was conducted between October 2005 and February 2006. It analyzed various dimensions of poverty and provided an understanding of how poverty is perceived by the respective communities as they share their most pressing problems and the solutions they find. The profile also highlights the perceptions of grassroots communities on amongst others, gender and leadership, decentralization, HIV/AIDS and governance.
According to the assessments, 96 percent of all people in the Erongo Region have access to safe water and only 3 percent of this figure have to cover more than 1 km to get water. The access to safe and proper sanitation – which is mainly considered a prominent indicator of poverty – produced assets of disparities between urban and rural settings, the assessments found.
While 99 percent of people in rural areas have access to safe water, the figure is lower in rural areas at 81 percent. This implies that nearly one out of five households in rural areas rely on unsafe water for drinking and cooking.
With regard to sanitation, over 90 percent of people in urban areas use flush toilets compared to only 25 percent in rural areas. A reversal of this figure would imply that nearly half of all households in rural areas use bushes to heed the call of nature, compared to only 2 percent in urban areas.
Television is accessible to 79 percent of all urban households, compared to only 27 percent in rural areas. In urban areas, 78 percent of households have access to a telephone compared to a mere 49 percent in rural areas.
Daures, Karibib, and Omaruru are the constituencies where households have the least access to the above-mentioned services.
Erongo Regional Governor Samuel Nuuyoma, who launched the report urged users, donors and planners to use the profile as a guiding tool for planning and funding, noting that poverty is a ‘serious enemy’ that should be reduced at any cost.
“The majority of our population lives in rural areas where they are deprived of things like telecommunication, markets, access to information, etc. In most rural areas, children still walk long distances to school, to clinics or to the water points. We need to work extra hard and change the way we have been planning to start planning according to the demands of the poor, if we are to see the impacts of our policies on human development,” said Nuuyoma.
The Erongo governor noted that as the HIV/AIDS pandemic continues to take its toll on households in the region, concerted efforts from everyone are required as it is no longer an individual problem due to the increasing number of children being orphaned by the pandemic.
In 1998, Namibia was ranked 115th out of 174 countries within the ‘medium human development’ category, scoring a Human Development Index value of 0.632. By 2002, the country had dropped to 122nd position with a value of 0.610, and still ranked as a ‘low income’ country.
According to the recently launched profile however, this does not reflect the real situation on the ground where a highly skewed distribution of national per capita income is prevalent. Erongo Region has a Human Poverty index (HPI) of 17.1, which makes it the best-off region in the country and scores considerably better than the country’s average of 24.7, the profile states.