As hundreds of homeless women, men and street children continue to be rounded up by government to prevent the spread of coronavirus, the threat of chronic diseases spread such as TB, hunger, violence, and non-adherence of social distancing are evident challenges inside the tents where these destitute citizens live in isolation.
Since last Friday, government and City Police started rounding up homeless Namibians in Windhoek, where they were taken to shelters to stay during the entire duration of state-sanctioned Covid -19 lockdown. The homeless that were rounded up are currently being sheltered at the Khomasdal Stadium and at the Katutura Youth Complex. About 900 homeless people will be accommodated at the two identified shelters.
At the Khomasdal Stadium, New Era upon visiting the shelter on Monday established that there were mainly men and two women - one with a five-month baby. The more than 30 homeless people share three available tents. Despite their frustration of challenges such as lack of food, lack of water and scorching heat in overcrowded tents- these people fear contracting chronic diseases such as TB, as among them, there are those suffering from such.
Mattresses are spread closely contrary to social distancing regulations. However, they are thankful to the churches that have since come on board to provide free food, which the destitute lamented is paltry. When this reporter inspected the site, a delegation from the church started feeding the homeless with two vetkoeks and a small cup of Oros juice for each. Brian Witbooi said he has lived most of his life on the streets before they were rounded up by the government and the police.
“I lived under the bridge and when coronavirus came, the police decided we should move out of town. They brought us here on Friday. But the condition of the food is very tough, although they promised to feed us. They gave us mattresses but no blankets. We use to hustle on the streets for food but here it’s like a prison. We are crowded in this place and some of these people are suffering from TB. TB is contagious. We are scared to contract diseases,” Witbooi informed New Era.
The most affected by lack of food are those lying idle with TB-related illness.
The two homeless men who admitted to suffering from TB said they regularly drink their medication, this is despite the fact they do not have enough food. Mane Martin who lived on the streets in Klein Windhoek with others said he is disappointed because the place is not safe.
“People are coughing and walking around here. Those who are sick are not even bathing. If I leave my food there is unhealthy. People here do not understand how coronavirus is spreading. We are many but share two toilets. But we are given soap to clean the toilets. We need security here, people are moving around and they come back inside the tent while we don’t know whom they mingled with,” he said. He said crime is another threat among them, because the police failed to body search every homeless person brought on site.
They also want to be provided with clean water, soap to wash their hands before they are given food.
Khomas regional governor Laura McLeod-Katjirua who visited the two sites said their intention is to round up the homeless people and offer them shelter. She applauded the churches feeding the homeless and urged all the other Good Samaritans to follow suit. “We don’t have perishable food. What we receive as donation is dry food. I decided to call this constituency number 11. We do not want people to start making fires to cook in stadiums. We are thinking of getting pots and create communal kitchens where they get food rationally,” she noted. McLeod-Katjirua said the regional council is faced with the lack of enough tents so that they could accommodate more homeless people. Many of the homeless say they do not want to return to the streets once the virus is over. She said they are planning on what to do with these people so they do not return to the streets.