A 44-year-woman from Okahandja Park informal settlement has been preparing meals from putrid and rotten food she collects from a rubbish dump in Okuryangava to feed her destitute family.
This has become a daily routine for unemployed Erika Naris, who each morning walks to the dumpsite to collect mouldy vegetables and smelly animal fat discarded by vendors at an open market in the area.
Naris, a resident of Tobias Hainyeko, presented to New Era a bowl containing visibly rotten tomatoes and onions from which she prepares meals for her family. During the visit for this interview she had already prepared her meal on an open fire.
The majority of the residents of the informal settlement at Tobias Hainyeko live in zinc houses, get water from communal taps and share public toilets or use riverbeds to relieve themselves.
While other households prepare nutritious meals or try out new recipes, Naris carefully washes and cuts off the rotten parts before preparing her meals.
Asked if she does not fall ill after consuming the food, Naris responds in the negative.
“No, I wash them and cut off the rotten parts before cooking,” she narrated.
Naris sometimes get maize meal from her neighbours to supplement her meal. She also asks for water from good Samaritans to use at home as she does not have a municipal water card.
New Era learnt about Naris’s struggle recently after her daughter was raped and hit on the head with a rock.
Naris has been unemployed for many years. She mainly lives on a farm a few kilometres south-west of Windhoek and occasionally visits the capital. The living conditions on the farm are not pleasant either and the farm belongs to someone else.
Naris claimed she dislocated her hip during the abuse she suffered in a previous relationship. The doctor told her that she cannot stand for too long, hence she does not look for a job. She also does not get a disability grant. Naris could not present her medical passport to confirm this, as it is missing. According to the National Planning Commission’s ‘Namibia poverty mapping report’ released last year, poverty is a multidimensional concept relating to a lack of resources with which to acquire a set of basic goods and services.
Poverty can be viewed as a state of deprivation and be defined in both absolute and relative terms.
“Absolute poverty can be seen as the inability to afford certain basic goods and services. Delineation of those living in absolute poverty, therefore, aims to determine the number of people living below a certain income threshold or the number of households unable to afford basic goods and services. In every country, the poverty line is set to measure poverty in accordance with the expectation of the cost of meeting basic human needs.”
Naris is among the urban five percent (15 738) living below the poverty line in Khomas Region.
The report states that Tobias Hainyeko and Moses Garoëb constituencies have relatively high incidences of poverty, which is attributed to rapid population growth due to inflow of migrants.
“It is noteworthy that most of the migrants into these constituencies lack the necessary skills and education to be easily absorbed in the job market, leading to a high rate of unemployment in these constituencies,” says the report. Naris does not qualify for drought relief or food handouts.
New Era tried to get comment from Minister of Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare Bishop Zephania Kameeta on the ministry’s plan for the urban poor.