Namibia: Mothers´ shelter in Engela now fully operational



Penehupifo Pohamba first lady in Namibia has formally opened a new mothers´ shelter in Engela in Ohangwena-county, but Icelanders, both ICEIDA and visitors of an arts festival in Reykjanesbær called Ljósanótt, donated around third of the total cost. Fundraising started in early 2007 after Vilhjálmur Wiium, ICEIDA´s Country Director in Namibia saw pregnant women dwelling under a couple of trees by the highway in adverse conditions.

“The county’s only hospital is in Engela, with approximately 230 thousand inhabitants. It is sought by mothers to-be from all around the county,” says Vilhjálmur. “Particularly women, who fear complications during delivery, wish to give birth at the hospital. However, due to lack of space, the hospital is unable to receive the women until labour has started. Therefore, pregnant women have been dwelling under a couple of trees in the vicinity of the hospital. Frequently, there were around thirty women who were about to give birth staying under the trees. They had to stay there, cook their food on a fireplace, ease themselves in the bushes and sleep under the trees. Even in Africa, it gets cold at night and during the summer months there are frequent heavy showers. Everyone saw this was by no means suitable and after some discussion a fundraising was started to collect money for house-raising. Director of Ohangwena County, Usko Nghaamwa, asked the first lady, Ms. Penehupifo Pohamba to be the guardian of the campaign and she agreed.”

Vilhjálmur says that in order to improve the situation of mothers to-be in the town, they started fundraising and many people gave their support, various companies and organisations in the area gave money and equipment. “Also, Reykjanesbær organised fundraising during their art festival, Ljósanótt in 2007, where 300 thousand ISK were collected which went towards building the mothers´ shelter.  ICEIDA also contributed and in total the Icelandic contribution covered around one third of the total cost,” he says.

According to Vilhjálmur there were some delays in the construction, mostly because of floods in the beginning of 2008 and again in 2009. Nevertheless, the house is now ready to use with eight rooms for 60 women. Vilhjálmur says that the house holds good cooking and sanitation facilities and also facilities to give mothers counselling on deliveries and infant care.