Years of drought have eroded the lives of thousands of subsistence farmers and recently, the economic fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic has forced hundreds of Angolans to leave their homes to search for food while those remaining barely get by, foraging for wild berries.
The situation is dire.
David Kulikolelwa had no harvest to feed his family.
He was forced to join a group of migrants who illegally crossed the border into Namibia earlier this year in search of food and improved living conditions.
“As much as I wanted to stay home, I could not. You either migrate for survival or die of starvation,” said Kulikolelwa, who said he has so far lost five relatives to starvation.
While close to 3 000 Angolan migrants are now camping at Etunda and some are scattered in various parts of the Omusati region, Kulikolelwa, his wife and their toddler son and 35 others have settled in Windhoek’s Okahandja Park informal settlement.
Kulikolelwa shares a little wooden shack with his family and many other migrants.
We discovered that their tiny shed, which shelters around 15 people, is also their kitchen and bathroom, since there is only one single bed that can only accommodate four people, the rest of the group sleep on the floor.
The shed was offered to them by a Good Samaritan, who lives nearby, and was only meant to be a temporary shelter.
However, two months on, they have not been able to find anywhere else to live.
Yet, despite these conditions, this shelter has been a refuge for many of them.
“I do not think I will be leaving anytime soon. This place is better than Okahama (their place of origin),” said another migrant.
Narrating his ordeal of hardship and agony to New Era, Kulikolelwa, who estimates his age to be in the late 30s, said the wheel of fortune has always turned its back on them.
“I walked away from a life of poverty and to seek a proper livelihood. There have been back-to-back droughts in my village, which have pushed many of us right to the very edge of starvation, but what do we do? The government does not care. Our lives do not matter, I guess,” he said with tears in his eyes.
To make a living, they have to find a means of survival.
“We collect firewood and sell to people on the streets - if lucky - a few dollars as a means of living. As you can see, there is no one here, the rest of the people are deep in the location looking for food,” Kulikolelwa added.
Despite these hardships and uncertainty, he prefers to stay in Windhoek and look for a job instead of going back to the place he once called home.
“At least here we get donations and left-over food from people who feel sorry for us. Back at home, people will literally leave you to die,” he said.
Among this group, is 20 adults and 18 children, of which many suffer from malnutrition and other illnesses.
Okahandja park community activist Luusa Uumati is pleading to Good Samaritans to help by donating food, blankets and toiletries.
“These people are living in a dire condition and they have so many children who at many times stay days without eating anything. We are requesting the nation to help them with the little they have. Even just a bag of maize meal, it would make much of a difference,” she said.
Blessed is the hand that giveth
Andreas Halongo (34) has taken it upon himself to provide shelter and sometimes feed these migrants.
“I was introduced to them by one man that is also from Angola. Since I had two empty shacks, I decided to accommodate them. These people need our help more than ever,” said Halongo.
Although he also does not have any source of income, he shares the little he gets with, especially children.
Asked for comment, Tobias Hainyeko councillor Christoph Likuwa said his office has reported the matter to the ministry of home affairs and the Angolan embassy.
“At the moment, we are waiting for a response from the ministry and also from the Angolan embassy for them (migrants) to be assisted,” he said.
Likuwa further applauded community members who have offered their assistance to the migrants.
In a telephonic conversation with New Era, home affairs ministry spokesperson Margaret Kalo could not comment instantly as she was unaware of Angolan illegal migrants in Windhoek.
“I am only hearing it from you but I am aware of the ones at Etunda irrigation project. I will revert to you,” she said.