Families torn apart

Covid takes its toll

13 July 2021 | People

While there is hardly a family or community in Namibia that has not been tormented by Covid-19, some families have endured losses multiple times, with the virus taking parents, children and siblings – sometimes within days of each other.
By Friday 9 July, Covid-19 had taken the lives of 1 911 people in Namibia – an unimaginable toll that continues to have ripple effects countrywide, with surviving family members often left questioning why they lost so much to the virus.
Emily Niingo, 59, lost her only daughter to the virus on 15 June after she was hospitalised for three days.
Albertina Naambo Stephanus, a marketing graduate, was only 30. Two weeks later, on 3 July 2021, while still gripped by the pain of grieving her only child, Niingo received news that her brother Johannes Niingo, who had been hospitalised a day earlier in a northern hospital, also succumbed to the virus.
“How do I even begin to grieve? It’s hard. I lost my daughter, my only child. I can’t express the amount of pain I’m in. What now? I lost her and then my brother, so I don’t know, how do you deal with that? It’s really difficult,” the grieving mother told Nampa.

Hard hit
“Some of us have been hit harder than others. In the blink of an eye I lost so much that I don’t know how to deal with it. Naambo was my only child. She was supposed to take care of me when I retire next year. She lived with me for the past 30 years and she was all I had. To lose her at such a young age, I am lost for words. I don’t know how to accept that,” she said.
Last week, Popular Democratic Movement leader McHenry Venaani took to his social media platforms, saying, “Three dear people to me and our family perished in one blow. Chief Handura, the affable farmer of Okamatapati, his wife and his son Drau all perished due to Covid -19. My heart is in deep pain to lose all of you in one blow.”
Chief Rukeeveni Handura died on 5 July. His death came two days after that of his wife Uatiza Handura and just days after their son Troughot Handura, who died on 28 June.
“The family is going through unimaginable pain right now. I cannot even explain to you what it is like for everyone. It literally feels like a big dark cloud is hovering over our family and every day you wake up scared that there will be more bad news. I am numb right now,” a close family member said.

Traumatising
The Neumbo family was also hard hit by the pandemic. Jane Neumbo died on 23 June while her husband and International University of Management lecturer, Professor Mathew Neumbo Sheyavali, died four days later.
“It’s traumatising, especially for the children who have to bury both their parents in one day. It’s shocking and still feels unreal,” a close family member said.
These are but a few families who could speak to Nampa openly as many others preferred their mourning period to be respected as they are still coming to terms with the reality that they have been subjected to by the deadly virus.
Founding President Dr Sam Nujoma has not shied away from expressing his pain as he saw the virus claim some of his comrades, allies and leaders he worked with at national level. Among them are Ovaherero Paramount Chief Advocate Vekuii Rukoro; Ambassador Zedekia Ngavirue; Mburumba Kerina; former Namibian Defence Force Chief John Mutwa; Lieutenant General Lucas Hangula and Gaob Eduardo Afrikaner.
“To lose them all in such quick succession is a huge loss for our country. The months of June and July will be recorded as some of the darkest months that robbed us of many precious souls, when wells of despair and what seem to be insurmountable mountains engulfed our nation,” Nujoma said last week during the memorial service of former parliamentarian Ngarikutuke Tjiriange.

Death rates double
In the meantime, predictions from the Covid-19 task team are that infections and death rates are likely to double in the next two weeks if the public does not adhere to mitigation measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus.
Last week during the national Covid-19 briefing, President Hage Geingob advised Namibians to brace themselves as the worse was still to come. “The darkest hour of the night comes just before daybreak. It is expected to get worse before it becomes better. We must do everything in our power to suppress the rate of transmission. Expert projections and simulation tools indicate that the rising incidence curve, during this third wave, is expected to peak around mid-August and may continue well until mid-September 2021,” Geingob warned. – Nampa

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