RUNDU – Water supply to the riverside border town of Rundu has been discontinued due to debts of N$60 million accumulated over a two-year period, compelling residents to flock to fetch untreated water from the Kavango River where a child drowned late yesterday.
Since last year Rundu sometimes went a whole day without water, which is often only supplied at night after protracted negotiations with utility NamWater.
The river has become an ugly scene where residents, in part due to the disconnection of water in town, bath and do their laundries.
Apart from residents, businesses, schools and hospitals are directly affected, and toilets go unflushed for days, posing a delicate health hazard at the fast-growing town bordering Angola.
The Rundu water crisis has been described as a ‘disaster’ by many residents who have likened it to living in a desert, despite the fact that the Kavango River from where the town sources water is a crawling distance away.
NamWater, the national water utility which supplies the town with portable water, has connected the town to a pre-paid water meter which the town council is unable to maintain as it does not have enough funds to buy enough water units for the entire town.
The water crisis in Rundu has been going on for over a year now with no end in sight and by the look of things it seems to be getting worse with each passing day and this is because the town council is seemingly ‘broke’ and cannot afford to buy water for its reservoirs from which it supplies all suburbs.
Residents, including small children, have been flocking to the river to fetch water and that is exposing them to danger of being caught by crocodiles or even drowning.
Yesterday, a child believed to be about three-years-old drowned in the river where many families had flocked to fetch water and use the river water for other purposes.
Police at Rundu are concerned about the people’s safety at the river. “People have no water. It’s a crisis, even small kids are being sent to the river and they end up playing in the water being at risk of drowning,” said Kavango East Police Acting Regional Commander, Deputy Commissioner Vilho Kalwenya. He spoke to New Era just hours before tragedy struck when the said kid drowned.
“Council must do something as this is not good, people’s lives are at risk at the river,” he said.
“We have no choice but to send learners home because the situation is bad,” said Kavango East Director of Education, Fanuel Kapapero. “These water cuts are affecting the teaching and learning, imagine learners and teachers can’t use the toilets because there is no water and can you imagine the situation in our hostels, food needs to be prepared and learners need to use toilets and clean their things but now they cannot do that.”
Nanso vice-president Bernhard Kavau expressed concern on the issue, saying the situation is particularly bad for learners who are preparing for their year-end examinations.
“Education is the force that allows communities to grow and prosper. But without clean water, the schools just can’t reach their potential, even if they are full of skilled teachers and knowledge-hungry kids,” Kavau said.
“A girl child is most affected especially when they are on their periods, as bathrooms will be locked. This will increase school absenteeism. I suggest that the minister of education must come to the rescue by installing dams or reservoirs at Rundu schools for emergency situations like this,” Kavau added.
The Rundu intermediate hospital is also struggling to operate without water.
“It’s affecting our operations badly. I can’t run my services affectively as the kitchen needs water, the wards need water and my dialysis machines need water and so on, so we are badly affected,” said Dr Joseph Mukerenge, the medical superintendent at the hospital.
Several efforts to get comment from Rundu Town Council proved futile as the mobile phone for the acting CEO Sikongo Haihambo went unanswered.