Kavango West Regional Governor Sirkka Ausiku says the region faces extraordinary challenges, such as extremely high levels of poverty and unemployment among rural youth and women.
“The challenges facing the region are many. According to the Poverty Mapping and Namibia Index of Multiple Deprivation Report of 2011, the former Kavango Region is the poorest region in the country,” she said.
Ausiku made the remarks during her State of the Region address for the year 2015 in Nkurenkuru on Monday.
In 2001 poverty levels in the then Kavango Region stood at 57.9 percent. This figure dropped slightly to 53.2 percent by 2011, but compares poorly with developments in other regions. In the Kunene Region the number of households living in poverty fell from 53.7 percent in 2001 to 38.9 percent 2011; in the Ohangwena poverty levels fell from 62.8 percent in 2001 to 35.3 percent in 2011. In the Omusati poverty levels decreased from 50.9 percent in 2001 to 28.6 percent in 2011.
While other regions made huge advances in tackling poverty, the level of poverty in the Kavango Region dropped with less than 3 percent. “The question is why,” the governor said. “By 2011, out of the 20 poorest constituencies in Namibia, eight were in the former Kavango Region and they all fall within the new Kavango West Region.”
The five dimensions of deprivation identified in the report relate to the material wellbeing of residents, employment, health, education and living environment, she said.
Ausiku further argued that the region lacks proper road networks and suffers from a lack of rural electrification, partly because of existing government policy, which concentrates on schools and clinics only.
“Here we are appealing to our government to revisit this policy as it does not serve any purpose in developing our region. The region lacks water infrastructure, although we have a perennial river to bring development to our communities,” Ausiku said.
She further said the two Green Schemes at Sikondo and Musese are not fully utilised and noted that there is also a general lack of information on government and other institutions’ support programmes.
By 2011 network coverage for TV was a mere 29.9 percent, radio coverage was 56.9 percent, while MTC coverage reached 31.2 percent, the regional governor pointed out, adding that “ We have to remember that information is power and without it you cannot expect development to take place.”
As a new region and the ‘last-born,’ Ausiku said, despite all the challenges Kavango West faces, she wants the region to be treated as a ‘special case’ and cannot to be expected to compete with other regions that enjoy the first-mover advantage.
“With all these challenges facing our region, we find comfort in the words of our president when he declared war against poverty. Our president also assured us that no Namibian in the Namibian house should feel left out.”
Ausiku further revealed that the region is experiencing a high level of school dropouts, teenage pregnancies and is also reeling under the impact of the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
She further noted that there is a lack of proper accommodation for teachers in the area: “Learners and teachers travel long distances to the nearest school and most of our schools don’t have basic facilities, like safe drinking water, electricity and sanitation,” Ausiku emphasised.
“The region still experiences a shortage of qualified teachers and 41 schools are currently operating under temporary structures. We’ve also started to engage the shebeen owners to organise themselves so that we know how to control the mushrooming of sheebens in our region in order to address high levels of alcohol and drug abuse,” she said.
Ausiku took time out during her speech to commend Mpungu Constituency for successfully assisting the Ministry of Agriculture during the last outbreak of foot and mouth disease in the area.
“This year, we experienced the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in Mpungu Constituency. I have to thank the Ukwangali Traditional Authority and famers in the region, who came up with emergency strategies to support the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry to contain the outbreak.”
She said the Ukwangali Traditional Authority engaged the neighbouring Oukwanyama and Ondonga Traditional Authorities. Farmers from both areas agreed on one strategy to address the problem, and it worked.