SWAKOPMUND - Christmas came early for Swakopmund residents when they received food parcels from government’s food bank initiative this week.
Magdelena Gowases, 59, woke up early Monday morning from her dilapidated shack, eager to take a long walk from the democratic informal settlement (DRC) to the Mondesa multi-purpose hall.
Gowases is part of the many that were identified countrywide under the food bank programme of the Ministry of Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare to be assisted with food parcels as they are struggling to make ends meet.
Despite some Namibians being of the opinion that the handing out of free food parcels creates the culture of laziness, the facial expression on Gowases’ face told otherwise.
With tales of poverty written all over her face, Gowases, while she patiently waited to receive her food parcel, decided to share her sad story of hardship and illness, which put an end to her being productive and employed.
She slept for three days without eating and had to send her grandchild to live with someone else, as she did not have the means to feed her.
“I was a productive person that did odd jobs and had a good life, because I worked for myself. However, four years ago I developed high blood pressure and severe asthma,” she explained.
“Even today I was ready to walk this stretch but a good Samaritan gave me $20 to come here.”
She says her husband, although he does odd jobs, does not make enough for the family of five to survive on, which does not cover their day-to-day living conditions.
“We have been surviving from the dumpsite for the past months now. My husband goes early to find us something to eat and that is how we have been surviving. I know what we received today will not last a month, however, the thought of not doing that and not going hungry today and tomorrow makes all the difference,” a smiling Gowases added.
She is, however, hopeful that that her struggles will be something of the past next year June when she becomes eligible for her government pension.
Another recipient, Kazepu Hembinda, who is 39 years old, also shared his story. According to Hembinda, he has been selling hand-made bangles for N$10 to tourists for years in Swakopmund in front of the Strand Hotel to feed their two children.
He moved to Swakopmund in 2013 with the hopes of securing a better-paying job to feed his family.
“I have not being able to secure a job and I also did not want to stay home or beg in the streets, that is why we resort to making bangles. On a good day we would make about N$200. However, sometimes we will only be making a N$50 or nothing at all and that is why I appreciate the help government gives us today,” Hembinda says.
According to him, the food parcels do not create a culture of laziness, at least not to him, but is a gesture that eases the constant pressure and the fear of not having something to eat one day. “Nobody wants to go hungry, but in reality there are a lot of people that go to bed without eating for days. Regardless of the criticism of the programme it helps many people like us to cope every day. It supplements our own efforts to feed our families and for that we are grateful,” Hembinda adds.
The two were part of the 500 people from 174 households that were identified by the ministry to receive food parcels in Swakopmund on Monday.
The programme, spearheaded by the ministry of poverty eradication, is just one of several strategies aimed at fighting poverty and government’s commitment to ensure that no one dies of hunger in the country.