Crying out for food

IN THE LURCH: Elders in Ditshiping

Hungry tears in Ngamiland

“Two women came to me, literally crying and on their knees as they begged me to go to their houses to see empty containers and hungry children.”

Bojanala councillor Luke Motlaleselelo’s voice crackles with fierce emotion as he recounts his experience of this week’s visit to Quhau settlement, just outside the tourism capital Maun.

“One was an elder, around 50 years of age or so and the other was younger, about 25,” continued Motlaleselelo, who joined a Covid-19 Village Response Team which went to the settlement on Tuesday to assess and prepare a list of those in need of food hampers.

The list is expected to be extensive.

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A mobile clinic was also in attendance for Antiretroviral Drugs (ARV) refill and general health care.

“I was there helpless and I ended up crying because the suffering is too much in these settlements!”

Pausing to compose himself, the councilor admits he was shocked at the misery he witnessed.

“The 25-year-old said she has children but they have gone for some days without food, with only watery tea to sustain them. All along she had been getting money through poling in the delta, but because of lockdown she has no other source of income. I watched her grab a bag of Tsabana, rush home to make the porridge for the children before returning for health care.”

After pausing again, Motlaleselelo reveals the young mother told him she had been holding in her tears for days, as she had to be strong for her children.

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“When she broke down it hit me very hard and I was so helpless.”

However, there is anger mixed in with Motlaleselelo’s anguish.

He insists the settlement’s struggles would not have been as severe if the council had acted earlier.

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“The bigger pain is that I have long asked the council to give priority to settlements, not because they fall in my wards, but due to their isolation and dire need,” he says, his voice now breaking with a different emotion.

According to Motlaleselelo, the council only started visiting settlements in Bojanala this week after the District Commissioner issued a warning of looming floods in the delta.

“They went there to distribute mosquito nets, check BP patients, demonstrate to the people how to pitch water bottles at their yard entrances so as to promote hand washing hygiene during the COVID-19 outbreak. But although I appreciate the move, my question is, since we have been requesting for these services over the past years, why has it been so difficult to do it!”

Settlements in Bojanala region include: Boro, Xaxaba, Quxau, Ditshiping, Daunara and Qaraxao.

POLING: Way of life in Daunara

Most people in the area are dependent on tourism. With all tourism activities grinding to a halt after the lockdown and ban on travelling was enforced at the beginning of this month, food is running out in many homes.

“You will recall that these are hard to reach areas and very soon they will be locked down by floods. There is no public transport in these places and it is difficult for them to access basic needs, including health care.

“Many of them have defaulted on medication not because of lockdown, but because of the isolation of the settlement. They are basically a forgotten population!” warned Motlaleselelo, his voice breaking once again.

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