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Breadwinners lost to Covid… families struggle to pick up the pieces

2021-09-17  Aletta Shikololo

Breadwinners lost to Covid… families struggle to pick up the pieces
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The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and the resultant economic fallout has severely affected the well-being of Namibian families. 

As the pandemic affected every person on the planet, the trail of trauma and loss it left in its wake and the consequences will have a profound effect on those families who have lost their primary or sole earners.

As of 15 September 2021, Namibia has recorded 126 537 confirmed coronavirus cases. So far, 3 456 people have died, mostly in a deadly third wave of infections during June and July 2021.

New Era caught up with some families who have lost their sole breadwinners.

Monica Gabriel (64) a former nurse at the Rundu state hospital, died on 26 June due to Covid-19 complications.

A mother, aunt and grandmother, Gabriel was the sole breadwinner of her family.

 Her death was an unbearable tragedy for the family of over 10 survivors who all depended on her.

Gabriel, who for many years has been suffering from chronic acute asthma and bronchitis, left behind five children, her nieces and nephews, an eight-month-old grandchild and an entire family that is completely devastated, not just emotionally, but also financially. 

“Aunt Monica was the only one I was left with since my mother passed on when I was a small child. She was the only one who was employed in the family. Now that our main support system is gone, all we do is literally just wake up every day, hoping for the best,” lamented Tresia Johannes, one of Gabriel’s nieces. The 28-year-old Johannes is a final-year student at I-care Health Institute in Ondangwa. She said since her aunt passed on, she has been unable to pay her tuition fees and is left with a debt of N$13 000, which must be paid before she writes her exams in November. The aspiring nurse, whose accommodation was also paid by Gabriel before, said she was forced to move in with a friend as she cannot afford to pay anymore.

She furthermore has had to hold in her emotions and take responsibility earlier than they anticipated. “At the moment, I am looking for a job so that I start generating income for myself. My school needs to be paid so that I graduate next year. I also need a place of my own as I cannot keep going from one place to another seeking for accommodation from my friends,” she said. “She loved unconditionally, and cared for people. Her passion was helping people, not only us as a family, but also her patients. She devoted her life to her work and family, and I wish she lived longer so I could make her proud,” Johannes added.

Gabriel’s daughter, Jeannie Gabriel (22) says a week before her mother’s passing, she had been preparing them mentally for the day she would depart.

“We used to speak all the time and Saturday evening, the night before her passing, she called me and encouraged me to finish my school, and how much of a better person I can be. Then she told me of how much she needs to rest. The next day, I just received a call from my brother, saying my mother is gone,” she explained the day her life changed forever. Jeannie is also a student at the International University of Management (IUM), pursuing a qualification in education.

She said although she is fortunate to have an older brother who has taken over the responsibility of paying her tuition fees, there is no one to take care of the whole family.

“At this point, everyone is on their own,” she continued. Simone Uises’ story is similar.

She has lost both parents in one month due to Covid-19. Uises (25), who is wheelchair-bound, is staring at a bleak future as she is unemployed and was left with no other support. “I was staying with my parents in Grootfontein, and my mother used to take care of me. I have been seeking for assistance from my family since their passing in May, but no one seems interested,” she said.

Uises now stays alone, and only relies on the government grant.

Orphaned again

Life has come to a standstill as tragedy struck children at the Orlindi orphanage in Windhoek after its owner, Klaudia Namises, succumbed to Covid-19 on 20 June.

Losing the breadwinner of the family and the owner of an orphanage meant that there was suddenly no one to take care of 35 orphaned children and 50 community elders who depended on her.

“This was definitely not something we were planning on going through,” said Rosalinda, Namises’ daughter. 

Rosalinda affectionately described her as “a mother to all” and a hero in the Nama-10 location in Katutura.

“Having started the orphanage in 2000, my mother has been a mother figure to the motherless. Her death has not only affected the family, but also people that she cared so much for. These children already did not have parents and now that their mother who took them in is also gone, they are distressed,” she observed sadly. She said their family is overwhelmed, but will do everything they can to make sure they take care of the many children her mother had left behind.

“The one thing I want people to know about my mom is how she always put others first, and I can’t thank her enough for the childhood she gave us and the legacy she left. We all have big shoes to fill,” she stated.

Speaking to New Era recently, psychologist Marsha Lorsch said the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has had “a severe impact” on especially children. “Children are likely to be experiencing anxiety and fear, and this can include the types of fear that are very similar to those experienced by adults, such as a fear of dying, a fear of their relatives dying, or a fear of what it means to receive medical treatment”.

The psychologist added that if the pandemic continues for too long, “we will run out of capacity to control these mental health issues”. –

2021-09-17  Aletta Shikololo

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