WALVIS BAY – The funeral costs for Covid-19 victims is plunging grieving families further into despair as they struggle to give their loved ones dignified burials while raising funds as quickly as possible to bury their dead within the stipulated time.
Sadly, some families are tasked with the daunting task of organising and paying for up to five funerals in quick succession as the third wave of the novel coronavirus wreaks havoc in Namibia.
The month of June proved particularly deadly, with 691 Namibians dying from Covid-related illnesses by 29 June.
Speaking to New Era this week, some families said they even contemplated leaving their loved ones at mortuaries as they simply could not afford yet another funeral.
“I really considered allowing government to bury my mother as I did not have a job, no funeral cover, or any money to pay for her funeral,” Walvis Bay resident Miriam Byl said. Byl, who lost her job last year during the first wave of Covid-19 that hit Walvis Bay the hardest, said she had out of desperation approached her church, which assisted her with a dignified funeral for her mother.
A family from Grootfontein told New Era they had to dig very deep into their pockets to cover funeral costs for at least five family members who died days apart from each other.
Cordula Pollmann says although some family members had funeral cover, the extra costs that come along with a
funeral also placed a burden on them.
“We had to cater for food, gravesites and all those other essentials needed at a funeral. Coffins are also not cheap these days,” she explained.
She still needs to prepare for her mother’s funeral, but they are currently still waiting for her Covid-19 test
“Luckily, I took out funeral cover for my mother that would at least ease the burden,” Pollmann continued.
Michelle Garises from Rehoboth, however, said she is in a financial predicament as she had to plan her
sister’s funeral all by herself.
“I have relatives, but none of them were in a position to assist with the funeral. I had to take out a short-term loan that I needed to pay over five months. On top of that, I had to approach a cash loan just so that I could cover everything,” she added.
Garises said she could have approached her local bank, but she was under pressure as the funeral had to take place within the time specified by the health ministry.
Government this week eased the time allowed for Covid-19 burials from seven to 10 days.
“I paid N$14 000 just for the coffin, flowers and transport. I had to fork out an additional N$5 000 for food, as well as N$2 000 to buy and prepare the gravesite,” she narrated.
Swakopmund resident Audrey van Wyk, who also lost both her parents due to Covid-19, said although she had funeral cover for her parents, getting everything approved and paid out on time was a challenge.
“To get the results was difficult, and I had to again push for the insurance company to pay out faster because time was not on my side”.
She then managed to get N$15 000 for each of her parents, but that only covered the coffins and other related
“I had to pay for the two gravesites myself, and needed extra funds to have them prepared for the funeral. Luckily, I did not have to spend money on food as the funeral was only attended by 10 people,” she added.
Several funeral parlours yesterday revealed that they are also assisting families by giving discounts on coffins, while in some cases they allow people to pay the costs over a period of time.
“It is sad to see that people hardly have anything to eat, and yet they
have the difficult task of burying their loved ones. Most of the people who approach us really do not have the means,” an employee of a funeral parlour in Rehoboth said.
Meanwhile, town councils all over the country indicated that they receive requests for assistance, especially when it comes to gravesites.
Walvis Bay mayor Trevino Forbes said a gravesite costs N$450 at the town, but some families still struggle to pay for it.
“We help where we can. Covid-19 has really negatively affected our community and as we speak, we are looking at how we can ease that burden,” he noted.
Rehoboth Town Council CEO Simeon Kanime indicated that a grave space currently costs about N$1 100 at the town, and when the need arises, they assist the community.
“We first assess the situation, and would in the most extreme instance assist with a free grave. However, we also assist by adding the cost to their municipal bill. In that way, they at least do not need to worry about where they would bury their loved ones,” he said.
Grootfontein constituency councillor Kati Filipe told New Era that the regional council had in the past received such requests, and has been assisting by paying for the burials.
“One knows who is really struggling and needs help, so we evaluate the situation and help if we can,” he explained. The Grootfontein municipality charges N$800 per grave.
The Otjiwarongo Town Council indicated during a recent extraordinary council meeting that the current tariff for grave space in Orwetoveni is N$1 179, and it will not be increased for the financial year to help residents cope with the costs.
The council’s resolution to give a rebate of N$450 on grave space for registered pensioners will remain unchanged. These beneficiaries are also subsidised by government with N$550.
Ruacana councillor Andreas Shintama, however, said the marginalised communities are better off in his constituency as they have not experienced any challenges yet with burial costs. “They are directly catered for under the vice president’s office, and we have funeral undertakers who also assist,” he added. – email@example.com