Oshiputu-An 81-year-old pensioner survives on water and salt served with the porridge that she prepares from the maize flour she received as part of the government’s drought relief programme, as her daughter takes her N$1,100 monthly state pension grant for own use.
“We use the saltwater to soften the porridge to make swallowing easy. I also resorted to smoking because after smoking I hardly get hungry,” said 81-year-old Natalia Sheendelwako. Sheendelwako, who hails from Oshiputu village in the Anamulenge Constituency of Omusati Region, lives with her four grandchildren, including one who lives with a disability.
When the drought relief food is finished, she has to rely on the kindness of her neighbours to assist her with mahangu grain. She said her grandchildren are now used to the situation, because they do not know any relish other than salt mixed with water.
According to the 2011 Housing and Population Census, poverty levels at Anumulenge stood at 27.5 percent locally and 50 percent in the entire region of Omusati.
Sheeendelwako said she was rather disappointed with her daughter, because she rarely visits them or buys any food or groceries. “If I send my grandchildren to her house where she is married, she will not give them money. She rather sends us a little bag of maize, which is not enough for the children,” she lamented.
Sheendelwako said two months ago she insisted that her daughter at least buy her some steel wire to make a fence, so that the pensioner can start cultivating mahangu during the next rainy season, but the daughter instead asked someone to drop it off, without sending them any food.
“It is really painful. The government has done its part to provide us with income, but I still go to bed on an empty stomach. Councillor [of Anamulenge Constituency], please do something. I want my money, so that I can feed my grandchildren that are taking care of me,” she said tearfully.
She recalled that in years past she was eager to cultivate mahangu, but said her daughter insisted she was now too old to continue. The octogenarian’s body now looks frail and the skin is dry and cracked. She says she cannot remember the last time she could afford some skin lotion.
Anamulenge Constituency Councillor Werner Kalipi said he would convene a meeting and address the issue of people receiving pensioners’ grants and squandering it on personal needs.
“I will engage this woman and I will make sure there will be an improvement. These people need to start cultivating mahangu, because they cannot just depend on drought relief food. The world is now facing a financial crisis. Who said the drought relief food will be there forever?”