WINDHOEK, May 6 — Namibia has struggled with inadequate sanitation in its informal settlements, particularly in Havana, where informal settlements are growing uncontrollably. The capital city, Windhoek, has become the political and industrial epicentre since Namibia’s independence, and many people have migrated there seeking education, employment, and better lives. As a result, the city’s population has tripled since independence, and informal settlements like Havana have expanded uncontrollably. These newcomers build shacks without any regulation, arrangement, or design, and this has worsened sanitation and stretched the city’s limits.
Conditions in Havana and other informal settlements are perfect for the spread of diseases like Hepatitis E, as overcrowding leads to the cross-contamination of faeces, water, and food. In 2017, Namibia experienced an outbreak of Hepatitis E, with 62% of confirmed and suspected cases occurring in Havana. In the run-up to the 2019 elections, President Hage Geingob promised to rid cities of shacks before 2024, but this hasn’t happened, and informal settlements are growing at a rate of 10% each year in Windhoek.
Erastus Uutoni, Namibia’s urban and rural development minister, called on local authorities to direct budgeting towards sanitation infrastructure and upgrading informal settlements. However, Namibia’s rural development and coordination budget dropped 33% between 2019 and 2022, according to CCIJ’s analysis. The government must act soon if it wants to address this growing issue. Urbanization is creating conditions that lead to more death and disease as settlements like Havana expand, and climate change is exacerbating the problem as persistent drought conditions for the past seven years have left many in rural Namibia who depend on crops and livestock jobless.
Namibia is one of many countries in Africa struggling with the harshest impacts of climate change, but here the issue is amplifying the lack of adequate sanitation in and around cities. Selma Mpasi, who sits selling oranges with her two-year-old daughter on the side of the road, said business is slow, with fewer tourists passing these days. She wants to go to Windhoek, where she hopes to find work and better living conditions.
In an attempt to fill the sanitation gaps, Ndahambelela Indongo, a resident of Max-Mutongolume in Havana, learned about the negative health effects of open defecation and built her own toilet and tippy tap with the help of Development Workshop Namibia (DW). DW is an NGO that has helped communities across the country become open defecation-free (ODF) by using Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS), a bottom-up approach aimed at achieving and sustaining ODF-free status by focusing on igniting a change in sanitation behaviour through community participation rather than constructing toilets. Facilitators work with communities to raise awareness of the negative effects of open defecation, encourage the construction of household latrines, and promote hygiene and sanitation practices. With more investment in rural areas and adequate sanitation infrastructure in cities, Namibia could improve the living conditions of its people and tackle the sanitation crisis that is exacerbated by climate change and rural-urban migration. – Namibia Daily News