About 16 babies are among the 74 unclaimed bodies at police mortuaries where officials conduct post-mortems.
The bodies of babies have been pilling up since 2018, according to the police.
Head of the National Forensic Science Institute of Namibia (NFSI) Nelius Becker confirmed the 74 unclaimed bodies in police mortuaries countrywide.
He said they are waiting for a legal opinion from the office of the attorney general on the possible ways of mitigating the situation, as there is a new regulation that contradicts the cremation of bodies in the country.
According to the Omaheke police commander Andreas Haingura, the region has seven unclaimed bodies of babies that have been there since last year.
“These are babies who have died of natural causes but outside the hospital. It can be mostly at home. The police removed the bodies to conduct the post-mortems and the families are supposed to come claim the bodies to bury them but up until now they are not claimed,” he explained.
He said babies, whose ages are unknown, have been there since October 2021 and urged family members to claim the bodies for burial.
Crime investigations coordinator at Omusati Moses Simaho said at the police mortuaries in Okahao and Etayi, there are about 11 unclaimed bodies of which eight are babies.
He said unclaimed bodies of babies belong to Angolan nationals working in the Omusati region as domestic workers.
“The bodies are of people including babies dying of unnatural causes in the villages. Once a person dies of any kind of unnatural death, the body is brought to the police mortuary for post-mortem and kept there while waiting for the autopsies,” he explained.
Similarly to the Omaheke situation, Simaho said the family members of those people did not go collect the remains of their loved ones, as a result, they are now pilling up at the mortuary.
During the height of the deadly third wave of Covid-19 in June and July last year, mortuary capacity came under severe strain as state mortuaries were not designed in a way to cope with such a death rate.
The government then created an additional 214 mortuary spaces to accommodate more bodies as the country recorded a spike in Covid-19 deaths.
In June 2021, the health ministry expressed concern over the piling up of more than 200 unclaimed bodies at the state mortuary in Windhoek. The City of Windhoek stepped in and cremated about 180 bodies to make space for the ever-increasing amount of deaths.
There are four police mortuaries in the Omusati region; Oshifo, Onandjaba, Etayi and Okahao.
Okahao has six compartments that can store only six bodies at a time.
Oshifo police mortuary has a storage capacity of nine, Etayi (nine) and Onandjaba (six) bringing to 33 the total storage capacity at all police mortuaries in the region.
The head of the mortuary in the Ohangwena region, Victor Haludilu, said six unclaimed bodies in the region had been there since 2018.
Of the six bodies, one belongs to a baby.
“We have six unclaimed bodies that are kept in the hospital because the region has no proper functioning police mortuary other than the one at Okongo. The bodies have been there for years. They are suspected to be Angolan nationals. They are all male bodies,” he said.
Oshana region has only two unclaimed bodies of adults that have been there since 2020. The regional crime and investigations coordinator Hilya
Haipumbu confirmed to New Era the bodies are suspected to be of middle-aged Angolan nationals.
The Hardap and Kunene regions said there were no unclaimed bodies in their police mortuaries to date.