Life in a flood relief camp


Nuusita Ashipala

Oshakati-“I came home one day and found my house was under water. I could not recover a single thing because the water was already above my waist,” narrated a tearful 43-year-old Ndinelao David as she described how the flood had robbed her of all her belongings.

David said she had recently had breast surgery and has been at the village since last year November, but due to her condition feared to attempt to remove anything from her flooded home.

To date the mother of two only owns a mattress she got from a good Samaritan, a handbag and a few other things.

Rauha Malakia is in a similar situation and had to spend two nights by the roadside because her home was flooded. Like many others who were relocated Malakia said she woke up to a flooded room.

“We didn’t hear anything at night, and it was strange to wake up to a flooded house – but when we had gone to bed the water was far from the house,” said Malakia.

Unlike David, Malakia was able to salvage her bed and some clothes, but the rest of her belongings are still under water at her shack at Oshoopala location in Oshakati.

Malakia said the flood was caused by a combination of water from the oshana and the canal overflowing close to their shacks.

While hailing the Oshakati Town Council for coming to their aid, some claim the relocation was merely a temporary relief from the waters.

“We cannot say we are completely safe because the tents also get flooded by rainwater, which poses a threat to those sleeping on mattresses,” said David.

The situation, with the area also surrounded by water, exposes them further to malaria, which was reported to have already claimed many lives in other regions. Minister of Health and Social Services Bernhard Haufiku last week declared a malaria outbreak.

According to current statistics, 120 families comprising of 562 people are currently accommodated in 35 tents. The majority of those relocated are women and children. Public relations officer at Oshakati Town Council Katarina Kamari said the number increases daily.

Many of the flood victims were allocated erf numbers but are still waiting for the town council to relocate them to the promised Onawa. Kamari said the council would in the future prioritise relocating families residing in the flood-prone areas to Onawa. Onawa is earmarked to accommodate 3 000 people.

Currently at least five families occupy each tent and the majority are women and children. But what is also worrisome is the placement of people in the tents. Some people have relocated with their husbands and boy children so women are especially discontented that they have to share tents with strange men. The tents are allocated to families, and not on the basis of gender.

Since the relocation to Ekuku, school-going children and those formally employed leave the tents early for school and work. The majority have nothing much to do and wake up to clean their surroundings or sit around and tell stories.
They also do not move very far from the tents as they fear their belongings might be stolen.

They claim the area is teeming with thieves who steal their belongings, especially at night because there is no light in the area. A mother bathing her child when New Era visited the tents decried her child’s nappies having been stolen.

Ndapunikwa Joseph, 29, said the relocation has affected her income. Joseph, who was in Walvis Bay when her home was flooded, said she made a living from collecting plastic bags from a dumping site, which she resold to people in the location for making fire.
Anna Hepeni, who relocated with a family of nine, including herself, said the main issue at the tents is the lack of food.

Hepeni said the majority lost their food in the water and as they are unemployed it is a struggle to put food on the table. Several people at the camp depend on their neighbours for food.

“Some of us paid our last cents to be relocated. We spent at least N$150 to be brought here so what will we eat if our food has been destroyed in the water?” said Hepeni.
Hepeni, who has resided at Oshoopala for a long time, said she had not seen so much water in the area before.

Many people New Era spoke to said they had to leave many of their belongings behind in the water. But what haunts them is the fear of the condition they will find their things in, especially electrical equipment.

While they remain grateful to those who have come to their aid, they plead with the Oshakati Town Council to provide them with light. The town council has already put up two ablution facilities, a tap and a bathing area. A clinic with two nurses has also been set up.

The humanitarian crisis organisation Red Cross donated goods to the relocated people.
On Monday, the Red Cross again donated blankets, cutlery and several other goods.


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