By Moses Magadza
WINDHOEK – Members of the Tanzanian Women Group in Windhoek (TWGW) last Saturday donated food and other items worth thousands of dollars to Namibians affected by drought.
Monica Bille, the chairperson of the TWGW led the group’s members to the Namibia Red Cross Society head office in Katutura, where the donation was made before scores of people who included Red Cross volunteers. In brief remarks, Bille explained that spouses of Tanzanians working or living in Namibia set up the TWGW in 2011, initially just to enable its members to mingle. “After a few months we thought we could do more than just that. Last year we organized a dinner dance and fundraising and managed to support the Megameno Home for Orphans Trust located in Shandumbala, Katutura,” she said, adding that on September 28 this year her group organized another fundraising event at the Polytechnic of Namibia Hotel School. Proceeds from that function were used to buy food, clothes and other items that were presented to the Namibia Red Cross to distribute to drought-stricken Namibians. The donation was in response to a plea by President Hifikepunye Pohamba on May 17, 2013 for help to ease the suffering of Namibians bearing the brunt of one of the worst droughts to hit the country in the past 30 years. Bille reeled off a heart-rending story of a young boy who, while playing on the beach somewhere, saw thousands of starfish that had been washed ashore and were struggling to breathe.
The boy took pity on the stranded fish and begun tossing them back into the sea one at a time. A rich man walking his dog on the beach saw the kind boy and mocked him, and asked him what difference he could make for the many stranded fish. “The boy picked up another star fish, threw it back into the water and said to the rich man: ‘For that one, I have made a difference’. “The small boy’s humble actions made a huge difference in the lives of the few fish that he reached. That is what we are trying to do. That is what we should all do. Together we can make a difference,” she said to murmurs of agreement from her compatriots. Bille said the challenges faced by some Namibians as a result of the drought were many and serious, but expressed optimism that every effort, however insignificant it may appear, would make a difference.
In accepting the donation, Dorkas Kapembe-Haiduwa, the Secretary General of the Namibia Red Cross Society, thanked the TWGW members for their philanthropic act. She promised to ensure that the donation reaches the intended beneficiaries. “What you have done is testimony that you are dedicated to the call of humanity. Drought is not like floods, which we have responded to in the past. When there is a drought, each day somebody goes hungry.” She said the situation in some parts of the country had worsened ever since President Pohamba declared a national drought emergency in May. Some people who still had livestock in May, have since lost all their animals to the drought, she said. She also commended the government for distributing food to the most affected households. Although the food distribution exercise was hampered by poor planning and execution in the beginning, every effort was undertaken to identify extremely vulnerable groups with a view to addressing their unique circumstances without delay. “History has taught us that during famine, elderly people will not eat before the young ones have had their fill. We know also that in such a situation food is not sufficiently nutritious. Accordingly, we are targeting children under the age of five years, pregnant women, those who are breastfeeding, people on treatment for chronic diseases and the elderly through the government feeding scheme,” she explained.
She said under this scheme, the Council of Churches in Namibia and the Namibia Red Cross have set up soup several kitchens. “We now have 11 sites where we cook meals six days a week. At the same time we screen for malnutrition and those people found to be severely malnourished are not only referred to health centres, but given more meals and uncooked food,” she said. Kapembe-Haiduwa also revealed that in the Kunene Region, things had become so desperate that scores of hungry people were flocking from rural to urban centres. “There is a part of that region where there are only new housing structures of people who have moved to urban areas to look for casual work or to beg,” she said, adding that the Namibia Red Cross was providing people in such areas with water purification tablets to prevent water-borne diseases. Work is also in progress, to rehabilitate boreholes in designated areas. However, this was not easy in some parts of the Kunene Region where the water table is said to be hundreds of metres below the surface.