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Living on the edge of poverty

2020-09-16  Emmency Nuukala

Living on the edge of poverty
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An impoverished family, residing in one of Windhoek’s informal settlement, is barely making ends meet. The family relies on a monthly social grant of N$250 and depends on neighbours and good Samaritans to get through every month. 
“We only have these two fish to eat today,” said 35-year-old Saima Shivandu, a mother of three, who lives in an informal settlement on the outskirts of the capital.

Shivandu does not benefit at the moment from the food bank programme, despite her dire circumstances. 
She claimed they have also not benefited from the Covid-19 food parcels donations. 
According to Shivandu, life became extremely difficult since her partner relocated to Rundu after falling ill, as he was unable to continue working. 
About nine months later, her household stopped receiving food from the food bank programme, as her partner was the one registered – and with him away, re-registering became impossible. 
“The only income in the household is from my 14-year-old son’s monthly social grant of N$250,” she narrated. 
Without an income of her own, Shivandu and her two children live off donations from good Samaritans, neighbours – and sometimes family when they are able to. 

“I get maize meal here, bread there, sometimes sugar and tinned fish,” she said. 
Shivandu stated that living off donations is not sustainable, and she would love to start a little kiosk at home to be able to sustain not only herself but also her family. 
With no income, Shivandu has been unable to travel back home to the north or to her partner. 
Her middle child lives with her mother in the northern parts of the country, while she lives with her son, who is in grade 7 and her three-year-old daughter who is also unable to attend daycare due to lack of funds. 

“My daughter also only has one torn pair of shoes – the others are broken; my son received old shoes from his friends. His school uniform, which was also given to him, is small and does not fit him properly, but I am grateful that his school shoes are wearable. I want him to study; maybe he will come help me. He is doing well in school and assists with the house chores. He also fetches water for neighbours and when he gets paid, he buys relish,” the mother added. 
Household items like the gas stove they owned, as well as blankets, were stolen, ao they have little left in their home. 
“I used to work as a food vendor, but every time I came home, they had broken in,” said Shivandu, further saying this discouraged her from continuing. 
“If I get work, I am able to work,” she quickly added. 

Like many other women in her community, who try and fend for their families, Shivandu collects tins around the city and sells them to the scrapyards. However, for her, this is slightly difficult, as she has an injured leg while carrying her three-year-old on her back. 
Shivandu tries to collect three sacks full of tins before selling them for a mere N$75. 
With tears in her eyes, she showed New Era how her only pair of shoes has holes in their soles. Her circumstances have led her to frequent drinking holes in her community, downing traditional beer. 

“Now, the situation forces me to go and drink; it is difficult to be surrounded by my thoughts – and I desperately want to give up,” narrated Shivandu as she looked away with shame and pain in her eyes. 
Shivandu reminisced how they never struggled when her partner could assist. The partner worked at a popular casino in the capital. 
“He would tell us to take his ATM card and go shopping; we never struggled like this,” she recalled.
Moses //Garoeb constituency councillor Martin David said a number of circumstances could have led to the family’s removal from the food bank programme. 
He suggested Shivandu contacts him directly for his office to assist her in registering for such a programme in future. 
In the meantime, he also recommended she calls a community leader to assist her. 

2020-09-16  Emmency Nuukala

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