Women plead with mayor for water

29 March 2021 | Infrastructure

Windhoek • [email protected]

A group of informal settlement women are begging the municipality and mayor Job Amupanda to install a water point at the new location they relocated to in January.
Forced to move with their families to the farthest northern outskirts of the Tobais Hainyeko constituency due to flooding risks, they now face a daily, dangerous and exhausting trudge through the deep-set Omuramba riverbed to the nearest water point far from their homes.
“They say we must wash our hands with running water, but where do we get that water? They put us here in the new location, because of flood risks but they didn’t even provide us with water,” Hilma Laurence, a community leader, said. She says the women are exasperated after months of asking the municipality to install a closer water point, to no avail.
“We need the mayor to come here and talk to us. If he were here, we would tell him the municipality put us here because of the floods, but now we have a water and toilet problem. It’s an emergency,” Laurence said.
They are begging the municipality to help them, saying their request for water provision has thus far fallen on deaf ears.
She said while the area they were relocated in January to Nyanyakweni in One Nation, not far from their previous homes, some people opted to stay in their flood risk areas because of the lack of water points at the new location.
She and the women speaking alongside her explained that the water they fetch every day has to be used not only for hand, body and clothes washing but also cooking, cleaning, drinking, and watering their small vegetable gardens.
Apart from a lack of running water nearby, or electricity they have no toilets, and are forced to use nearby river beds for toilets.
In addition to these difficulties, the women fetch wood each day for boiling water and cooking.

The City of Windhoek in a brief statement on Monday said the affected community – around 11 families – were advised that the new area they were moving to “does not have access [to water], but they were adamant that they cannot move from their locality citing school going children and their livelihoods”.
City spokesperson Lydia Amutenya said the group of families had approached their office in January and early February for help as their houses had flooded and they feared loss of life.
She explained that as the city does not have enough planned land to relocate flood victims, the families were asked to identify a piece of land on higher ground demarcated by the city for them.
She said in light of the complaints made by the families about the lack of a closer water point, the “provision of a water point will be explored.”

Dangerous and difficult
In addition to the distance and difficulty to get to the nearest water point, they add that they additionally face physical dangers, such as being assaulted or tripping when fetching water at night.
The path to the water point requires that they walk through the Omuramba riverbed and then climb a narrow and uneven footpath that snakes steeply up a hill to the water point. At many spots, the footpath is adjacent to a downward plunging cliff.
“Imagine walking this path to fetch water at night, you can get hurt or attacked,” Josephine Kamati says while leading the way from her home to the water point.
Laimi Shadonodi, a young nursing student, says when she returns home at night after school, she has to navigate the treacherous road back home, fearful of injury and, most of all, being assaulted.
And, while the footpath is difficult to traverse in dry weather, in wet weather it is nearly impossible. Aside from that, when the river flows during heavy rainstorms, the community is completely cut off from the faraway water point.
Shadonodi says because of the difficulties reaching the water point each day, the women can only fetch and carry back home two water buckets once a day.
“It’s a long-distance, and the way the path is, you cannot go twice. So we bring water and prepare breakfast, and then you wash your hands with that water. We can’t wash our hands in running water. The water runs out quickly.”

Job, help us
They say until now they have heard several excuses, such as that they are only temporarily relocated, or that the terrain makes it difficult to supply them with a water point. “Yes, we are here for a while, but we need water. And who knows when we move back,” Laurence points out.
She adds: “We need clean water. And we can’t use the riverbeds. It’s not safe or healthy.”
Sara Ndumba says she wants Amupanda to “just please help us with water. Help us, please. We are tired.”
Maria Koiti also appealed to Amupanda, asking that he “please do something for us. As the mayor, bring a tank for water and a toilet. And please help with the road. Even just a gravel road."
Evening out the road to their informal section will ensure that ambulances or fire services can reach them in emergencies. They fear that at the moment if a fire breaks out or someone becomes seriously ill, ambulances and fire services will not be able to reach them.

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