GOBABIS – The Ministry of Gender Equality and Poverty Eradication has prepared and distributed food parcels to 35 households with children living on the streets of Gobabis in the Omaheke region.
The distribution was done on Saturday by the ministry’s regional office to ease the difficult living conditions that have been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.
According to the Omaheke Regional Council senior public relations officer, Tauno Iileka, the purpose of the food parcels is to provide the children to ensure they stay off the streets and remain at home to minimise their exposure to coronavirus.
“The lack of food at home is one of the major reasons children in the region live on the street. This is in addition to other social issues such as encouragement by parents for the children to go to the streets and beg for food and money to sustain the households, lack of supervision by parents at home and pressure from their elder peers who have become accustomed to living on the street,” he said.
Some children, Iileka said, come from child-headed households, where there are no parents to take care of them.
He said 25 households in Gobabis constituency and 10 in Otjinene constituency also received free food assistance.
Iileka said each household received a food parcel consisting of various items such as maize meal, tinned fish, cooking oil, baking flour, soap, corned beef, instant yeast, beans, lentils, salt, bread, tea and sour milk, valued between N$450.82 and N$809.82 per parcel.
According to him, the food items were obtained from the regional drought relief programme, regional food bank and individual donors, with a combined value of N$24 754.
Usually, he said, a community member Theresia Hasotosi, assisted by two caregivers, provides two meals per day (breakfast and supper) to the children living on the streets.
However, he said, in response to Covid-19, the ministry of gender equality and poverty eradication in Omaheke decided to supplement her efforts by increasing the meals to three times a day at a cost of N$16 000 payment of three casual workers for a total amount of N$7 458 and help from donors.
“The children had been receiving their meals at the Women Centre in Gobabis, where they were accommodated during the day and they would be taken back to their homes after supper,” he said.
This arrangement ended last week Friday with the provision of free food parcels to the households commencing and will continue for the duration of lockdown, depending on donations received.
He said the regional office held a meeting with the children and their parents on the same day, where social workers Cynthia Muna and Namvula Kiimbi discussed child care issues.
He said issues discussed include parental responsibilities towards their children, the physical and mental wellbeing of children, supervision of children, discipline and reintegration of children into schools and to be off the streets, misuse of children’s welfare grants by parents, as well as the effects of Covid-19.
Iileka said during the meeting, parents were encouraged to approach social workers when faced by problems with their children instead of neglecting them.
Children who are known by the regional office to be living on the streets total 41, including 31 from Gobabis and 10 from Otjinene.