ONANDJOKWE – Expectant mothers at the Onandjokwe Lutheran Hospital in the Oshikoto region are calling on the authorities to provide them with a more habitable shelter.
At the moment the women, who are mostly from remote villages, squat in a structure opposite the hospital.
The women live there for weeks or sometimes months until their pregnancies are due.
However, the privately owned structure is considered unfit for human habitation, as stray dogs, pigs and cats frequent the worn-down facility.
One of the expectant mothers, 26-year-old Nelago Onesmus, who has been at the shelter for three weeks, said the hospital authorities simply pay no attention to them, as the issue of expectant mothers’ shelter has been raised over the years but to no avail.
“They do not care about us. This place is dirty, unsafe we are sleeping together with pigs, dogs and other animals,” Onesmus said. Apart from expectant mothers, patients who are not admitted in the hospital and visiting family members seek refuge in the structure.
The desperate women reportedly pay N$23 to be accommodated at the facility, which houses 40 expectant mothers, while an additional 20 places are available outside.
When New Era visited the facility last week, it had no doors, windows, toilets and showers. There is also an overflowing pit latrine outside the building, which has forced the women to make use of nearby bushes when nature calls.
The facility has cracked walls, much to the displeasure of the tenants who fear for their lives every day. The facility has no potable water, meaning the women are forced to walk some metres to buy water from the nearest tap, only twice a week.
Olivia Matheus complained of cooking outside. She said preparing meals in the open was not safe for a pregnant woman. She also complained that the structure was not safe as their food and clothing often gets stolen if left unattended. “This was supposed to be a resting place for us.
We have to get water from far. Some of us are heavily pregnant, and carrying water containers makes one tired,” said Matheus.
The mothers are appealing to the government to build them a proper shelter where they will have quick access to the maternity ward. A female worker that is supervising the shelter, told New Era she has nothing to say and doesn’t want to talk to the media, because she is not the owner of the facility.
Onandjokwe Lutheran Hospital Senior Medical Officer Siraji Saad Rwehumbiza explained the hospital has a place for expectant mothers inside the medical facility.
“The shelter that is accommodating these women who are outside does not belong to the hospital. The hospital has space for them, it is only that it cannot accommodate all of them at the same time,” said Rwehumbiza. The hospital is not planning to construct a new shelter for expectant mothers for now, he said.
A number of companies have invested in maternity shelters for expectant mothers across the country. At Usakos, Namport last year handed over a pre-delivery maternity shelter to the health minister worth over N$1 million.
The facility is located at the Usakos State Hospital and it forms part of a response to prevent maternal mortality in the region. The Social Security Commission (SSC) has also set aside N$40 million to help with the construction of maternity shelters at Outapi, Katima Mulilo, Rundu and at Aussenkehr in the //Kharas region.