Eveline de Klerk
Walvis Bay-Landless Walvis Bay residents living in an open space close to the Erongo rural council are finding it difficult to cope with the challenging weather conditions at the coastal town.
About 200 residents, the majority of whom are unemployed women and their children, have been living at the open space for about two months now.
Their health is at risk as they have been living in unhygienic and deplorable conditions without basic necessities such as toilets.
Most of them ended up living in the open after being evicted from their shacks due to non-payment of rentals as they are unemployed, while others had to move as their former landlords are currently building flats in the yards where they stayed, which they cannot afford.
These landless people are between a rock and a hard place as they are not allowed to erect shacks, following clashes with the police.
Some of them could obtain tents while others who cannot afford tents have resorted to making shelters using black refuse bags and cardboard boxes.
Desperation and hopelessness spoke volumes when New Era visited the area yesterday, with many of them sick because of exposure to the elements.
One of them, Steven Tjiveze, told New Era there are several pregnant women among them and that they fear something might happen to them due to the cold and unhygienic living conditions.
“Living here is overall a health risk especially for women and children as we cook in the open, and bath and relieve ourselves in the open.”
He added that several of them have already developed illnesses such as tuberculosis and flu.
Maria Karunga said she was diagnosed with asthma last week.
“I could not breathe and was taken to hospital where I was diagnosed with asthma. I never had asthma before, however the nurses told me it is because of the cold,” she said.
Esther Shipeta, 27, who lives with her husband and twins boys, last week gave birth to her fourth child, a girl.
“I would have still been living in a tent with my newborn baby were it not for the mercy of another woman, who is currently accommodating me and my kids,” she said. Leader of the group, Kenneth Iilonga, yesterday said they would organise another march next week
Tuesday, as the Walvis Bay Municipality has yet to respond to their petition in which they request permission to erect temporary shacks on the land.
“Lives of people are at stake and the municipality should at least allow us to stay temporarily on the land, just as the group adjacent to where we are camping, at least until they come up with a permanent arrangement,” he said.