The reason behind the San’s hurried burials

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Amarika

Traditional leaders of the marginalised San community in Amarika and Onkaankaa in Otamanzi constituency in the Omusati Region are concerned that their people are still buried on the day they die without any post-mortems being conducted.

The deaths of people at this forlorn settlement are also not registered with the relevant officials at the Ministry of Home Affairs and their deaths simply go unnoticed, as they are simply not reported to the relevant authorities.

They say postmortems that may take several days, depending on the availability of a pathologist (a doctor qualified to perform autopsies), have become a luxury because Amarika does not have a mortuary.

This compels villagers at the poverty-stricken settlement to hurriedly bury their dead to curb the risk of spreading disease.

In addition, because of the high levels of poverty and lack of funeral parlours, villagers at Amarika continue to bury their dead wrapped in blankets or any piece of cloth, despite a government-initiated programme to provide coffins to the San at the desolate and dusty settlement.

The deplorable situation at the settlement is a consequence of poor roads and telecommunication infrastructure in the area. To access basic services villagers are obliged to travel to the nearest town, Okahao.

“Even pensioners, who have their own coffins, are being buried without coffins because we cannot communicate with the office in Okahao so that they can bring coffins here in time,” the village headman of Amarika, Simeon Kesheelialso said.

The headman further noted that since there is no proper road leading from Amarika to Okahao, the police do not even visit their place. He said even the sick must wait for farmers, who have cattle posts in the area to visit their farms, in order to get transport to the nearest hospital.

“People are either dying on their way to hospital or at home, because they have to wait for so many days for transport,” he said.

The constituency councilor, Johannes Iyambo, also lamented the fact that there is no gravel road or communication tower in the entire constituency. He said the situation resulted in a situation where the dead are buried without their deaths being registered with the Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration.

The situation has in turn resulted in many orphans being left without the means to acquire the requisite national documents, such as death certificates for their deceased parents, he stated.

“Because of the lack of national documents among children and elderly people, some people in this area are also not registered for pension or social grants,” the councilor lamented.

This all came to light during a recent familiarisation visit to the Omusati Region by the Deputy Minister in the Presidency Responsible for the Marginalised Communities, Royal /Ui/o/oo.

There are about 5,563 inhabitants and about 1,184 households, who are affected by this situation in the Okahao, Otamanzi, Onesi, Ruacana and Tsandi constituencies.

The most marginalised communities include the San, Ovatue and Ovatjimba people, who reside in areas surrounding Amarika, Onamatanga, Onkaankaa, Omuhama, Omutambo-womawe and Okatseidhi.

The Governor of the Omusati Region, Erginus Endjala noted that marginalised communities continue to be the most vulnerable when it comes to natural disasters, such as drought, given their nomadic lifestyle.

He said some do not have the will and sometimes the capacity to work in the fields to produce food for their families. This, he said, made them vulnerable to inhumane practices, such as modern-day slavery and child labour, as they mostly find work as domestic-workers and as labourers at cattle post with little or no pay.

“Even the old people suffer due to the fact they do not possess identity documents that would enable them to benefit from the pension grant,” he said.

Endjala called on the Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration to conduct outreach programmes in these areas so that they can register and issue identity documents to all eligible pensioners in these severely marginalised communities.

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