OUKONGO – Since independence the indigenes of Oukongo village in the Epupa Constituency share the same water source with their livestock.
New Era last weekend saw how villagers draw water from a dam from which their donkeys, goats and cattle are herded to drink water, posing a potential health hazard to this long-suffering rural community at a village located some 15 km north of Opuwo.
Oukongo villagers do not know what it means to have safe potable water and have been drinking dirty and in some instances it is very salty water and unsuitable for humans.
Some of the villagers who spoke to New Era said they have been complaining for years about their plight but this fell on deaf ears.
The water they get from a water pan, which only has water in some seasons, is brownish and greenish in colour and salty with a smell and taste similar to that of urine.
But, residents who spoke to New Era said they have not fallen ill as a result of consuming the water either through drinking or cooking, as they seem to have developed some sort of immunity.
Kandoozu Muharukua, a resident of Oukongo since birth said: “We do not get sick from drinking this water. We have been drinking it for years.” Muharukua said with health educators visiting the village, the community is encouraged to at least boil their water. In the past, the residents were given water purification tablets. However, that is no longer the case, she explained. The water is there only for a season and it is mostly during the rainy seasons and a few months afterwards. This reporter also observed that Muharukua, who goes to the water pan daily to fetch water, puts leaves on top of the water in the container before carrying the container on her head.
She explained: “I do this to stabilise the water as I am walking.”
“When it dries out we have to walk for about ten kilometers to the mountains where we dug boreholes but that water is just as salty and dirty as this water,” said another resident of Oukongo, Rituapi Ruhozu.
“When the water pan dries out, our children go to school dirty because not everyone goes to the mountains where the boreholes are located to fetch water because of the distance,” added Ruhozu.
The people with money and cars travel to Opuwo where they buy water for N$ 5 for a five-litre container, said Ruhozu.
“Women and children are the ones who walk the long distance to fetch water. Men barely fetch water in this area. That is just how it is,” explained Ruhozu further.
The Epupa Constituency Councillor, Nguzu Muharukua said he is aware of the plight of the villagers. He said there are several boreholes in the village, however, there is no water. Also, one of the boreholes that has water is too salty for human consumption and so the villagers do not even drink it. The plan is to drill two boreholes in Oukongo which would benefit the villagers, added Councillor Muharukua.
With regards to educating villagers on boiling water before consuming it, the councillor said very few people listen to the advice.
“Many of the old people say they have been drinking such water for a long time and never fell ill so they cannot understand why they have to boil their water before drinking it. Even the water purification tablets are used by very few villagers,” said the councillor. Oukongo is just one of many villages with water problems, noted the councillor.