OUTAPI – Pregnant women who camp in the open site along the road leading to the Outapi District Hospital can finally expect improved accommodation after the Omusati Regional Council announced that it would erect a proper shelter at the cost of N$5 million.
The shelter for expecting women would be constructed on the eastern side of the hospital. Funds are already available, however construction would only start once the plan by Kathindi Architects, who are also the site supervisors, has been approved by the Outapi municipality. The Governor of the Omusati Region Sofia Shaningwa said the shelter is expected to accommodate about 100 expecting mothers, which is the number of expecting mothers usually found camping outside the hospital. The shelter is to be called the ‘Tukwathela Mothers Shelter Project’ – a joint project by the local private sector and the regional council.
According to a report compiled by the committee driving the Tukwathela Mothers Project, the Outapi District Hospital accommodates 19 298 women of child-bearing age with only the district hospital providing safe, normal and caesarean deliveries. The clinics and health facilities in the region only provide emergency delivery services, which force mothers to seek shelter near the hospital because the majority of the women live far from the nearest health facilities and cannot make it to the hospital on time when they are in labour.
Mothers currently camping at the site related to New Era that the environment is not a safe for them and that they have to sleep in tents. They added that besides the heat during the day, they are also exposed to harsh winds that sometimes blow at night bringing in its wake all manner of harmful creatures such as scorpions. Some of the mothers said their biggest fear is the rain as the year draws to a close with the rainy season just around the corner. Other challenges faced by the expectant mothers, include having to share the open space with people who have recently been discharged and can therefore not make it home, as well as the lack of sanitation at the site.
“At night we are forced to relieve ourselves there, you can see for yourself,” one woman said pointing to an area very close to their tents, “because we are scared to go too far.” Also, the site not only exposes the women to unknown diseases, but it also puts their unborn children’s lives at risk. “We do not have proper sanitation facilities. We sometimes shower in the hospital, but we are too many and the time allocated for us to bath is too limited.” They added that sometimes they are only allowed to get water in the morning as well as late in the afternoon, and failure to make use of the opportunity for whatever reason leaves them no choice but to drink and bath in the canal from Ruacana.
The chairperson of the regional council Tataati Simon Shileka on Tuesday confirmed that the women who are camping outside the hospital sometimes use water from the canal, but that should not be the case because they are allowed to use the bathrooms and water in the building where the expectant mothers previously used to camp. Shileka said perhaps the officials concerned have failed to visit the site to inform the expecting mothers of the facilities available to them and added that there are also women who refuse to use the available facilities for reasons known only to them. The new shelter will not only provide a safe haven for the expecting mothers, but they will also benefit from information and education sessions offered by the Ministry of Health and Social Services and other interested ministries and non-governmental organisations.
By Nuusita Ashipala