Namibia: Catholic Drought Assistance Triggers Outcry

Namibia: Catholic Drought Assistance Triggers Outcry

The New Era, Rundu — Community members in villages across Kavango East are unhappy over the fact that officials distributing drought aid hampers donated by the Catholic Church are only considering Catholics. This was revealed during a monthly meeting of the Regional Drought Risk Management Committee (RDRMC) in Rundu last week, where it was said the practice of sidelining non-Catholics from receiving the food is common in the villages of Nyangana, Shamahiho and Kambowo. However the coordinator of the Catholic Church’s food relief efforts Irma Jericho denied the allegation, saying food donated by the church is meant for every Namibian affected by the drought regardless of their religious affiliation.

Kavango West and Kavango East regions are home to some 107 849 Catholics. The Catholic Church, through Caritas Namibia, is distributing to every single household one kilogramme of speckled beans, a kilogramme of kidney beans, two kilogrammes of parboiled rice and 750 milliliters of cooking oil. Caritas Internationalis is a confederation of 164 Roman Catholic relief, development and social service organizations operating in over 200 countries worldwide. Some RDRMC committee members complained that it is not fair that government caters for all citizens who are critically affected by the drought, regardless of their political or church affiliation, while churches allegedly use other criteria.

But Jericho strongly brushed off the allegations saying: “We gave clear instructions to our field officers that the hampers are for every affected Namibian and we believe they are following the orders.” She said the first hampers were distributed last month and would continue until March 2014. Jericho also indicated that last month 5 540 hampers were distributed to starving Namibians at the church’s missions in Rundu, Bunya, Andara, Nyanga and Omega. One of the RDRMC members, Lubinda Aushiku, told the gathering that he discovered the allegedly unethical practice when he visited Shamahiho and Kambowo villages, east of Rundu, where the church officials are allegedly reserving food hampers exclusively for Catholics.

“One of the church leaders at Shamahiho village came to me complaining he was unhappy that the registration forms from the Catholic Church are only given to Catholics. I could not respond on something that I was not sure of, therefore I approached the church leaders at the St Mary Mission in Rundu about whether the allegations are true, and one of the fathers at the church told me that priority is given to Catholics,” said Aushiku.

Aushiku continued: “The father said he was not the right person to speak to and he referred me to the Bishop [Joseph Shikongo], I could not get hold of the bishop however.” Although the church may deny this matter, it is happening on the ground, said Aushiku.

“Even if the church leaders give directives that every critically affected Namibian should benefit, the people on the ground are making their own rules,” he charged.

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