Road carnage, Hepatitis E and Gender Based Violence (GBV) are three scourges battering the country and filling the cemeteries. As we go into the elections season, these three major national issues continue to cause untold misery. Lives are being lost and yet these issues are not the focus of party platforms and action programs.
We await the manifestos of each party contesting the upcoming elections. Will there be viable, well-funded programs to reduce death and injuries in road accidents, eradicate Hepatitis E and significantly reduce GBV?
The ruling party and most opposition parties have a 50/50 gender-balanced electoral list. Are these women in high office prepared to champion the major issues that are affecting other women? We have not seen this yet. The women sitting in parliament do just that…they sit. They do not agitate for women’s concerns in law-making.
It is a national shame that women are dying like flies in domestic violence incidents and of avoidable disease outbreaks. Children are dying needlessly in bus accidents, being thrown from cars in road smash-ups and are tragically losing their parents and family members.
The Motor Vehicle Accident Fund (MVAF) statistics show that compared to last year's numbers, there has been a 113 percent increase in the number of children aged 10 to 14 who have died in road accidents this year. These are national tragedies. This should be an election year issue, yet it is not.
We have not seen the women who currently hold political power such as the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, or female ministers out front on these scourges that disproportionately affect women.
Politicians are alert to concerns about the drought, loss of cattle, failed crops and resulting food shortages in rural areas. There are programs in place. The Office of the Prime Minister is coordinating international donor efforts to provide support for those in need. The people are informed. There is institutional and political backing for drought relief.
Where is similar support for the three scourges killing off relatively large percentages of the Namibian people?
Namibian mind-sets, issues related to poverty and attitudes are the root causes of the three scourges. And yet, these are no excuses to become numb to the death plagues sweeping the population.
The dead on Namibia’s roads need an advocate. Over a weekend this month, 23 people lost their lives in five separate road accidents. In just one weekend disaster, 14 people perished near Kalkfeld. A total of 101 people have died in 335 car crashes around Namibia in the past month. Where is the substantive plan to address the problem from civil society, churches, and the business community? Where are election speeches that list the changes that will take place to curb this kind of road carnage?
Experts agree that driver attitudes are causes of most road accidents. High speed and under-serviced vehicles are a part of the problem. Unskilled drivers make fatal errors. All involved pay the ultimate price when people overestimate their skills behind the wheel.
Every Monday morning the nation reads about who died on the roads over that weekend. Our leaders must come up with solutions before road accident deaths become normal. And then, we also read about deaths from Hep E.
The statistics about the alarming rise in Hepatitis E infections and deaths are a national crisis. We are in the midst of a major Hep E outbreak. Where are nationally televised speeches and radio announcements from health authorities on ways to avoid infections?
Media reports say that over the past year, the number of Hep E infections have increased by almost 80 percent. Deaths over the past 12 months rose by 77 percent, from 31 to 55 people.
The majority of Hep E deaths are women who were either pregnant or have recently had their babies. The Khomas region accounts for 63 percent of those impacted by this disease. Destitute citizens who are crammed in suburban ghettos without proper sanitation are victims of the outbreak. Those who are least prepared to manage the disease are mostly affected.
Politicians must have a Hep E management program in their political manifestos.
It seems that our leaders are numb to Hep E and shell shocked into insufficient action against road fatalities or GBV.
There are the armies of women being beaten and murdered by current or former spouses, boyfriends, and baby-daddies. Many continue to use the offensive term, “passion killings” to discuss brutal, cold hearted murder.
Too many people look away from GBV and consider it as ‘a personal fight between a couple’ or a ‘social issue.’ They say this as if listening to your neighbour beg a man not to kill her is no big deal. To those who stand around and watch the murder and abuse of women as if it is a reality TV show, we ask: where is your humanity?
We applaud the outstanding efforts of first lady Monica Geingos to spotlight GBV and advocate for women and girls. But, where is the Minister responsible for gender issues? We cannot remember the last public speech or media statement by the Gender ministry, about GBV and ways to defeat it.
There is a well-researched correlation between poverty and domestic abuse. Low-income abused women are especially more vulnerable to domestic violence. Poverty limits choices and resources. Men in various cultures are still considered as ‘providers and bread-winners.’ They are under pressure when they cannot do so. They take their frustrations out on those closest to them. As a result, black women are being beaten like unwanted dogs and slaughtered like cattle. Where is the political platform of any party with a program of action against GBV?
As the speeches and Star Rallies begin before the November elections, those in attendance must demand answers to these life and death issues. Road carnage, Hep E and GBV must be in the front room of the Namibian House, not shoved in a back closet.