|24. October 2013
Hunger kills 25 children
About 25 children aged between one and five years are said to have died of malnutrition at the Grootfontein State Hospital in the Otjozondjupa Region since September. Sources at the hospital told The Namibian that yesterday alone, three children died while one was reportedly critically ill.
Most of the afflicted children’s families are from the nearby resettlement farm called Juliana and the Blikkiesdorp area in Grootfontein.
Efforts to get confirmation from officials drew a blank with the hospital superintendent, Sarah Haufiku, saying that she could not talk to the media. “I am not at liberty to talk to the media. Talk to the regional director. She will have more information on the matter. We report to her,” Haufiku said.
The Otjozondjupa regional health director, Maria Kavezembi, said she knew of only of three deaths from malnutrition that were reported by the hospital, but over a longer period of time. “I didn’t receive any information regarding the high death rate. I received only a report of three children who died of malnutrition but not in a short period of time. I have assigned senior medical officers at the hospital to look into this matter,” Kavezembi said.
Permanent Secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office Nangula Mbako said this was a health issue. “This issue has got nothing to do with the Prime Minister’s Office. Call the ministry of health, not us.” The Office of the Prime Minister is in charge of the distribution of drought relief food.
Ministry of Health permanent secretary Andrew Ndishishi said that they were not aware of the deaths. “I am not so sure as nothing has been communicated to the ministry. But if there are malnutrition cases reported at our hospitals, we give food to the children’s families and make regular follow-ups. Nevertheless, I will follow this case up,” Ndishishi said.
Although the source said the matter had also been reported to the Grootfontein Regional Constituency Councillor, Nelao Amagulu, nothing had changed since the deaths were increasing. When contacted, Amagulu said she could not discuss the issue since she was driving.
According to the United Nations Children’s Education Fund (Unicef) report, malnutrition is directly responsible for 6 000 child deaths in Namibia annually. Almost one in every three Namibian children aged under five is malnourished, the report states.
(The Namibian, Windhoek)