• April 7th, 2020

Tombo drinkers at risk of virus


Victoria Kaapanda 
        and John Muyamba

Uukwambi Traditional Authority spokesperson Reinhold Iita advised villagers and others to stop practices that could contribute to the spread of coronavirus.

Iita said communally drinking from one jug or glass, a practice mostly carried out by drinkers of tombo and other traditional brews at cuca shops, should be discouraged for now.
He explained plastic jugs are shared from one mouth to another, which could be dangerous – not just for the spread of Covid-19 but many other infectious diseases. 

“When one person breaths into a tombo jar, the droplets that they excrete scatter all over, and if that person is infected, he/she spreads the virus to everyone close to them, especially the people that he/she is sharing the drink with,” explained Iita.

Iita said there are well-known cultural practices that can easily contribute to the spread of viruses, such as corona, including the sharing of food plates, whereby two to 10 people can share one plate of food. This practice is common in the north and northern-eastern regions of Namibia, where some people even lick their fingers.

“When a lot of people live together in one house, it’s very difficult to control them because they share a lot of things, including eating [meals]; the only solution is to teach them how to avoid the coronavirus,” he shared.

“Wash your hands every time before eating or preparing food, and also after blowing your nose, coughing, sneezing and after using the toilet,” he further stated.

According to him, the knowledge on how to prevent illnesses and how to maintain hygiene is not widely known or taught in the villages; therefore, there is a grave need to educate rural communities on this issue.
Other dangerous practices include the spitting of saliva in young people’s faces as a sign of welcoming or appreciation by the elders, mostly practised in the north-eastern regions of the country; spitting on ones’ hands when pounding mahangu or maize; numerous community meetings, and the use of unhygienic public toilets. 

Iita also wants large public events to be postponed or cancelled. Such gatherings include weddings and church services. 
He mainly pointed out funerals as potential events where the virus can easily spread to masses because of the cultural handshakes. In many Namibian cultures, mourners are obliged to shake hands with everyone in attendance at a specific mourning place. 

 He further warned against sleepovers, playdates and unnecessary visits among community members. Onandjokwe State Hospital’s Dr Akutu Munyika emphasised Covid-19 is not an airborne disease but it is rather transmitted where there is physical contact. That puts people who carry out the previously mentioned practices at risk. He urged such cultural practices to be abolished.

“People should not spit on one another’s faces, and whenever they spit on the ground, they should cover their saliva with sand. When they cook, they should not spit on their hands and the utensils must be sterilised all the time. It is also important to wash hands before and after cooking,” said Munyika.
He further added that family members with Covid-19 symptoms or those who are known to have been in contact with an infected person should be isolated, and those who care for them should wash hands after physical contact with them. Suspected cases must be reported to the hospital via a telephone, said Munyika. 

He added that isolated people should not go to the hospital themselves; there is a need to avoid public transport and crowds of other patients at hospitals.
“It’s best to call the hospital for the best arrangement to be made. People can also make use of the toll-free number,” he said.

Kavango communities are known to eat in a communal set-up, sharing one or two plates and eating with their fingers, while some elders are known to spit in the necks of their grandchildren and children as a way of greeting and expressing well wishes. 

New Era spoke to the traditional leader of the Ukwangali traditional authority, Hompa Eugene Siwombe Kudumo, who said the spread of the coronavirus could bring problems to people in Ukwangali and Kavango at large, due to their traditional way of living and doing things. “Regarding the virus that is threatening us, our people will have to learn to move away from certain cultural practices like eating together with many people on the same plate, or drinking water or sikundu from the same cup – one after the other,” Hompa Kudumo said. However, the hompa said doing that will also be a problem because traditionally, boys eat together with their hands and so do girls because people do not want to waste the little food they have. “It’s just a culture to us, and that will endanger our people if the virus gets to our villages because of how we eat and drink, as well as greet,” the hompa expressed.

He advised subjects to try and minimise physical and social interactions where possible.
 “Greetings are now a problem: as Kavangos, we are people who shake hands when we meet or visit each other – that’s our way of appreciating one another; we shake hands – that is how we greet, not just verbally. We have to stop; I mean that will take time for us to get used to not shaking hands,” noted the hompa.
– vkaapanda@nepc.com.na
 & jmuyamba@nepc.com.na 


John Muyamba
2020-03-18 07:22:08 | 20 days ago

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