The poorest areas in Windhoek are expected to be hardest-hit by the coronavirus.
Emergency work is under way by a handful of non-profit private organisations to safeguard Windhoek residents living in the city's poorest and most under-resourced areas against Covid-19.
The Development Workshop Namibia (DW-Namibia) and Namibia Chamber of Environment (NCE) last week announced the immediate rerouting of funds from current projects revolving around hepatitis E prevention and other work in informal settlements to initiate a Covid-19 emergency response programme.
“Windhoek's informal settlements, with more than 180 000 residents, are likely to be the first and hardest-hit by Covid-19 over the coming weeks in terms of health, and then also economically, as the crisis will unfold,” the DW's notice to stakeholders said.
In a statement, DW-Namibia executive director Beat Weber said the emergency programme will focus on mass information campaigns, the distribution of thousands of handwashing kits and the training and activation of mobile community teams who will reach out to local residents on Covid-19 matters.
DW-Namibia underlined that Covid-19 safety measures that many take for granted will not be easy to implement by residents living in the city's poorest neighbourhoods, where a lack of access to sanitation facilities and fresh water has contributed to a prolonged hepatitis E outbreak since late 2017.
“High population densities make social distancing difficult, and limited access to water and a general lack of good sanitation practices provide challenges for frequent handwashing.”
Widespread poverty and “very limited resources will not allow for people to stay at their homes as may be requested when lockdown measures come into effect”, the DW pointed out.
As part of the emergency programme, 10 000 pamphlets are currently being printed and 5 000 health ministry approved posters on Covid-19 preventative measures were distributed from Tuesday via an array of channels, including buses, taxis, supermarkets, shops, shebeens and other public areas.
Yesterday, 2 000 handwashing kits (Tippy Taps) were distributed with two-litre units of concentrated liquid soap.
Twenty mobile teams of community volunteers from the DW-Namibia hepatitis E sanitation programme are currently being trained and 20 megaphones have been ordered from South Africa.
“As soon as we have enough protective equipment, these teams will start touring the informal settlements, providing information to local residents this week.”
As part of phase one, the goal is to distribute at least 20 000 handwashing units, 50 000 pamphlets and 10 000 posters.
The Debmarine-Namdeb Foundation has pledged N$300 000 towards the campaign, and B2Gold has donated 150 facemasks.
Other donor funding is required to acquire the N$5 million needed for the implementation of the first phase, DW-Namibia said.
Last year DW-Namibia, NCE and local and international partners, including the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the health ministry, the government of Japan and others implemented the Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) initiative in an effort to curb the prolonged hepatitis E outbreak in two of the hardest-hit areas - the Moses Garoeb and Samora Machel constituencies in Windhoek.
The CLTS programme is aimed at encouraging communities to construct their own latrines, in line with municipal guidelines.
By mid-February eight sanitation centres had been built in both constituencies, and the construction of a further 25 sanitation centres are under way.
These sanitation centres and the mobile information activities around them led to a total of 35 owner-built toilets that were completed or are under construction.
DW-Namibia's decision to reroute funding from the current operational priorities will lean on the infrastructure put in place by the CLTS programme, including more than 100 community-based volunteers and a strong partner network.