Expectant mothers scorn shelter at Engela

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Nuusita Ashipala

Ongwediva-A handful of expectant mothers at Engela have defiantly refused to move into the Tuyakula Shelter, saying the new shelter is no better than camping outside.

They claim the only difference from those in the shelter is that they have a roof but they say this is outweighed by the fact they also collect wood and cook in the open.

“What’s the difference, they also came with their own blankets and collect wood. The only difference is that they have electricity to light at night,” said Lavinia Henombela. In addition, those inside are required to clean the facility inside and out, including the bathrooms.

Both the women at the centre and those camping under the tree adjacent to the shelter are charged N$14 per week. Those inside assume the N$14 is for their stay at the shelter, while those from under the tree are charged for water usage. One of the women accommodated at the shelter said apart from the roof there is no safety at the shelter.

“The rooms are not lockable. There is a padlock at the front door, but we fear locking it because then we would need to be asking ‘who has the key?’ when one of us goes into labour,” related a woman who preferred to remain anonymous.

They complained that the gate closer to the hospital has been locked, forcing them to use a longer route to get to the hospital. “Just last week a lady delivered on the way to the hospital. We need this small gate opened. And sometimes when we escort those in labour we are usually chased by unknown men,” related one of the women.

Albertina Namhindo from Ongenga, one of those camping under a tree, said she does not have the required amount to pay for the shelter. “I have been here for three weeks already. Where am I supposed to get all that money from” she asked.

The Tuyakula shelter was constructed with the support of former first lady Penexupifo Pohamba for expectant mothers, who camp outside Engela District Hospital. Although the centre has been operational for a while, it was renovated and re-opened for use by expectant mothers, however, some still do not see the need of the shelter.

During the state of the region’s address, Ohangwena Governor Usko Nghaamwa delightedly announced that the renovation of the shelter early this year has restored the dignity of the expectant mothers.

In the current financial year, the shelter is expected to be fenced off, while the laundry and kitchen area is also expected to be renovated. Plans are also in the pipeline for a matron house to be constructed near Engela District Hospital.

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