KATIMA MULILO, April 18 — Water is essential for life, but unfortunately, many rural communities in Namibia still do not have access to safe drinking water. The sources of water in these communities include hand-dug wells, earth dams, rivers, and swamps, and most of these sources are not fit for human consumption. This means that many families in rural Namibia have to rely on unsafe water sources and pay a high price for them.
Precious, a 25-year-old from Sibulamunda Village in the North-Eastern Zambezi Region of Namibia, knows this struggle all too well. For years, her family relied on water from a neighbour’s unprotected hand-dug well, which they had to pay for monthly. However, earlier this year, Precious’ family managed to drill their own eight-meter-deep well, thanks to her elder brother who got a job as a teacher and paid for the construction.
While this well has brought much-needed relief to Precious and her family, the quality of the water is still a concern. The unprotected wells in the area are often left open, allowing insects, snakes, and other pollutants to fall in, making the water unhygienic. Moreover, the depth of the wells is also a safety concern, particularly for children who can easily fall in and get injured or die.
The community’s dream is to be supplied with potable water that is clean and free from germs, but they are still waiting for the government to act. The planned Ngoma Water Pipeline project, which was aimed at providing water to over 30,000 people over a distance of 60 kilometres, has stalled since 2014 due to alleged mismanagement and poor workmanship. The delays have dashed the hopes of many people who thought help was on the way.
The community is blaming the government for failing to manage the project, while the government blames the failure of the project on budgetary constraints. The delays in the pipeline project have left the community in a difficult situation, with people suffering from diarrhoea and other stomach-related ailments due to drinking unsafe water. Precious believes that the government should at least test the wells and boreholes in the area as well as protect them to ensure that the water is safe for human consumption, while the water pipeline issue is being resolved.
According to a report released by the World Health Organisation and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Namibia’s potable water coverage stands at 98.9% in urban areas and 83.2% in rural areas. While the figures for urban areas are impressive, it is evident that much needs to be done to improve access to safe drinking water in rural areas, where over one million Namibians live.
The Namibian government has the commitment to meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals of access to water for all by 2030. However, for communities living in rural Namibia, this commitment seems far-fetched. The delays in the Ngoma Water Pipeline project have left these communities struggling to access safe drinking water, and it is time for the government to take concrete steps to address this issue. By investing in water infrastructure, testing and protecting water sources, and supporting communities to access safe drinking water, the government can make a significant impact on the lives of people living in rural areas. It is time to turn the adage “water is life” into a reality for all Namibians.
– Namibia Daily News