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DNA test backlog delays death certificates

2022-01-24  Loide Jason

DNA test backlog delays death certificates

Loide Jason 

The families of 15 people who died instantly in a horrific accident in December are in limbo as the police are unable to test the charred remains for DNA due to insufficient funds. 

The police said DNA testing is a costly process, and although the department received money from Government to purchase equipment, the money is insufficient. They are now also facing a backlog of over 4 000 cases.

Omusati governor Erginus Endjala pleaded that more funds be allocated to the Namibian Police’s Forensic Science Institute (NPFSI) as the DNA testing backlog is a national issue.

He was speaking to New Era yesterday following a press release by the Namibian Police that they are experiencing a backlog in DNA testing due to insufficient funds. As a result, the police will not be able to release the DNA results of the 15 victims of the horrific accident on 10 December 2021 on the Okahandja-Otjiwarongo road, all believed to be from the Omusati region.

All the victims were burnt beyond recognition. Namibian Police spokesperson Kauna Shikwambi said the death certificates of the 15 victims cannot be issued as they have not yet been identified.

In a statement released by the Namibian Police last week, deputy commissioner Shikwambi said the DNA analysis of the deceased is a costly process. The NPFSI received funds from the government to purchase DNA reagents and screening kits.

“However, when unforeseen horrific accidents that require DNA occur, the NPFSI is always affected,” she stressed.

Despite the expensive nature of the tests, only N$8 million was allocated to the laboratory in the current financial year, which is not sufficient, considering the backlog.

A DNA kit costs between N$1.5 million to N$1.7 million, and only 60 cases can be completed with one kit.

“Unfortunately, due to legal implications, death certificates cannot be issued  for individuals who have  not yet been identified and due to the circumstances of the accident. DNA is the only accurate method for making such identification”, explained Shikwambi.

To that, Endjala said the decision is devastating to the families as a death certificate is the only thing that will comfort the family members that their loved ones are no more.

“Before contacting anyone, you’ll need to get a death certificate. Secondly, the death certificates can be used by the executor, and to claim funeral policies and others. It is official confirmation of the death of a person, as well as its place and time. I just feel for the families because it is a sad reality. They will not believe that their loved ones are no more,” he reasoned.

He said if more funds are not allocated to clear the 4 000 backlog, the nation will face a crisis.

 “These cases include serious murders and rapes, of which a large majority are in court or under investigation. The Namibian Police humbly apologises for any inconveniences that this necessary and long DNA process may have caused, and once again extends its sympathy  and condolences to the bereaved families,” Shikwambi said.

The force further assured the families of the victims that it will not be giving up or stopping the process, but will rather persist to have the DNA analysis finalised.

Caption: (DNA) Devastating… The victims of the road accident in December between Ohakandja and Otjiwarongo cannot yet be identified because of a DNA testing backlog and lack of funds.

Photo: Contributed

2022-01-24  Loide Jason

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