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Finding hope after the floods in Namibia

© UNICEF Namibia/2009
Children assisted by a volunteer take out recreational and educational materials from a play kit. UNICEF is supporting thousands of children displaced by flooding in Namibia.

By Juditha Leketo Matjila

OGWENDIVA TOWN, Namibia, 21 May 2009 – Despite being weary from the intense sun, the children of the Ekeku displaced persons' camp in northern Namibia continue to dance while singing local traditional songs. More than 350 children have been calling this place home for nearly three months now.

Besnati Mbesa, a volunteer with a local partner organization, has been running a children’s play group and school programme since the beginning of April, with the support of UNICEF. “When we came here in March, we found a lot of children with nothing to do,” she said. “Then UNICEF provided early childhood education kits and recreation materials.”

It is not only the children at Ekeku camp whose schooling has been disrupted by severe flooding in the north and northeast of Namibia. More than 500 schools were affected by floodwaters. More than 200 closed for at least a month, causing nearly 97,000 schoolchildren to go without formal education. UNICEF is working with the Ministry of Education and local partners to provide learning activities in the camps.

Learning and play

At the Oshoopala displacement centre, Frieda Kanime, 10, carried her baby brother on her back as she joined a group of 20 children gathered for their daily learning and play activities. Frieda has to be a part-time mother to her brother, preventing her from enjoying many of the rights of childhood. Her mother is struggling to care for an older daughter, Maria, who is learning disabled.

“She is one of the five children in this camp who have never gone to school,” said Ms. Mbesa.

© UNICEF Namibia/2009
Frieda, 10, carries her baby brother on her back. With help from UNICEF, Frieda, who has been forced from her home because of flooding, will attend school for the first time.

To ensure that young children in the camps are stimulated and cared for, early childhood development kits and recreation materials have been provided, and volunteers have been trained to look after the children during the day.

Basic school work

“We spend two hours a day working with the children using the materials received from UNICEF. We assist with basic school work, play football, netball, games, singing and so on. The parents are happy to see their children engaged in some activity rather than doing nothing,” said Ms. Mbesa.

“It’s important to give some normalcy to their lives as well as to stimulate their minds and bodies,” she added.

Ms. Mbesa said most of the children who come to the activities are from families that were poor and vulnerable even before the floods. Because of parents' deaths from AIDS, a number of families are headed by older children.

Brighter prospects

As a result of UNICEF’s work with the government, Frieda’s prospects of going to school are more promising than ever. Her school fees have been waived and her mother will receive a small grant to help care for her older daughter.

“We have assured her mother that we will bring her forms to waiver her from paying school fees and to ensure that she gets a disability grant for Maria,” said Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare spokesperson Kudzanai Goboza. “As part of our UNICEF-supported response to the flood, we will also link the mother with a local NGO that supports vulnerable households, to get her school uniform for Frieda.”



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