Yesterday was a joyous occasion for some destitute families when President Hage Geingob arrived at the doorsteps of two houses in Babylon informal settlement to deliver parcels of monthly food provisions from the country’s first food bank.
“Thank you to our government. Thank you very much. God bless you,” said 45-year old Wilemina Shikongo, as she received the food parcel from President Geingob.
Geingob yesterday launched the first Namibian food bank initiative, in accordance with the June 30 deadline stipulated under his Harambee Prosperity Plan. The handing out of food items to 30 households marked the launch yesterday
of the food bank pilot period that aims to cover the entire Khomas Region by December.
The distribution of the monthly food items from the food bank started immediately after the launch.
It is projected that more than 5 800 households with a total of 27 500 people would benefit from the food bank in Tobias Hainyeko Constituency during the pilot period.
The registration process is ongoing for other constituencies for less privileged households in particular, whose income falls below N$400 a month.
“To our citizens from other regions, do not despair. You have not been left out. This is a fine-tuning process. Therefore, we want to get things right before we come to you,” said Geingob.
Households, such as those of Shikongo, a resident of Babylon for the past 21 years who lives with her husband and two children, would ultimately receive monthly food parcels consisting of 10kg of maize meal, six 400g of tinned fish, four 300g tinned corned meat, one bottle of 750ml cooking oil, two 500g beans, four packets of yeast, one 2.5 kg bread flour, one 2 kg brown sugar and one 750g soap bar.
The monthly food parcels have been composed in consideration of the nutritional value they provide and are expected to supplement household nutrition among the poorest. Each parcel is valued at N$550.
One of the families to receive the food parcel at their doorstep from the president is the household of Loide Namundunga, who lives with 10 people.
The 53-year-old Namundunga has been unemployed since arriving in Windhoek 28 years ago in 1988. She survives by selling ‘kapana’ in the settlement.
“No one is employed at my house, only my daughter who braids people’s hair at home,” she briefly shared her story yesterday, adding that the government should urgently address the high unemployment rate.
“When we finish with this pilot project, Katutura will not be the same and Khomas Region will not be the same,” said Minister of Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare Bishop Zephania Kameeta.
Kameeta said one of the main intentions of the war on poverty is to restore dignity and empower the people to develop themselves and not to create a dependency syndrome.
He asked that other regions should not remain idle and wait for the completion of the pilot project. “I, therefore, urge governors in other regions that are ready, to contact the ministry so that together we devise strategies on how to proceed in those regions,” he said.
Geingob pointed out that the household income threshold of below N$400 is not cast in stone, but it is the basic criterion being used in the pilot phase. The food bank initiative is adapted from the Cuban model to fit Namibian needs and involves sourcing food and required items to distribute to the needy using street committees, tasked with identifying poor and vulnerable households. So far 117 committee members received training from a Cuban expert.
President Geingob said initially government “had grandiose ideas” of constructing warehouses with state-of-the-art cooler rooms and abattoirs. “However, following a number of conflicting quotations received from prospective constructors, and given the exorbitant costs quoted, after some soul searching, we realised that this would be a contradiction to our efforts of fighting poverty. It would be preposterous if government were to build a facility, which costs close to N$100 million, while our people are going to bed on empty stomachs,” he said.
The food bank initiative will be implemented differently in the various regions, with some approaches involving integrating it with drought relief activities, which would involve the utilisation of existing drought relief facilities, such as warehouses from where food can be distributed.
Geingob further said government would endeavour to drastically improve sanitation by installing waterless toilets in all 14 regions.
“Our aim is to completely eliminate the need for our people to relieve themselves in the bush. Where applicable, we also plan to provide ploughing and tractor services to subsistence farmers in the North and north-east, Kunene Region and in the South, as well as all areas where subsistence farming takes place,” he said.