Abed Nghipandulwa, who has been surviving on an oxygen machine for the past eight years, is fighting for his life at home because of a lack of electricity.
Nghipandulwa, a resident of Havana 2B in Windhoek’s Moses //Garoeb constituency, lost his right lung in 2014 after he was diagnosed with tuberculosis that destroyed the lung.
The 42-year-old underwent an operation that severely restricted his mobility.
He lives in squalid conditions in a shack, with the only income being his government disability grant.
“After the operation, I have become bedridden and was declared disabled by the doctor, the situation that qualified me to earn the disability grant,” he said while catching a breather outside his home.
“Being in Havana without a toilet has made life miserable for me as it takes me an hour to go to the toilet, which is 100 metres away from my house.”
Nghipandulwa walks slowly as he tries to preserve the little oxygen he can get from his remaining lung.
Estimates presented by the Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia (SDFN) and the Namibian Housing Group show that around one million people live in shacks in Namibia.
Nghipandulwa said because he is alone, he decided to ask his 22-year-old son to take care of him.
He dropped out off school in grade 9 in northern Namibia, and travelled to Windhoek to look after his father.
He explained that at the beginning, he was offered an oxygen cylinder by the hospital that he used to refill once it is depleted.
But later, the hospital offered him a portable oxygen machine that works with electricity.
“Because I am benefiting from the disability social grant, I arranged with a neighbour to make an illegal electricity connection to pay N$400 every month. I have been paying since the time I got the portable oxygen concentrator, but disappointingly, the electricity is always off due to a lack of funds,” he said with difficulty.
He puts on the oxygen mask, almost by habit, even though the machine is not working, as he tries to explain his situation.
The man has now found himself fighting for his life after the electricity ran out, and the neighbour is not sure when they will get money to buy prepaid electricity again.
“Normally, when I find myself in this situation, I always go back to the hospital for the nurses to put me on oxygen until the time my son notifies me that the electricity is back at home. I can even go for more than a week, just laying in hospital ,waiting for the power to be recharged,” he added.
In the current situation, he did not go back to hospital as he was admitted on Thursday last week, and was only discharged on Monday this week.
“When I got home, I did not find electricity. I did not call my son to ask him if there was electricity because I left the electricity on. Now, the whole night I have no electricity, and I am very much scared for my health. The doctor said as long as I have oxygen, I will live for long. But now my oxygen is not working due to a lack of electricity. This is very painful.”
He is now urging any good Samaritan to assist him with a solar panel to ensure that he has oxygen 24/7 as required for his condition.
Nghipandulwa said in most cases when he lacks oxygen, he experiences pain, and that terrifies him as he imagines death all the time.
He added that a lack of services such as electricity and toilet facilities worsens the situation, and urged leaders to take development to the informal settlements as he might not be the only one with a life or death situation.
He also used the opportunity to thank the health ministry for providing the portable oxygen machine, saying all other stakeholders must emulate them to take services to the people.
In 2020, the City of Windhoek started formalising informal settlements and allocated thousands of plots to informal settlement dwellers. But progress is slow, mainly because of a lack of funds and a protracted land development value chain.
Approached for comment, constituency councillor Aili Venonya described the situation as unfortunate, and urged members of the public to come forth and assist the resident.
“Unfortunately, this situation is unbearable, and the office of the councillor cannot solve it alone. We will try our level best to see how we can assist, but we too need good Samaritans who can assist Nghipandulwa with at least a solar panel. Or they can also assist to buy the electricity tokens so that he can survive,” she said.
Venonya indicated that the situation is urgent, and they will see what temporary arrangement her office together with the CDCs are going to come up with.