Homelessness in Namibia Namibia, neighbored by Zambia, Angola, Botswana and South Africa is a West African country home to one of the world’s largest deserts. The legacy of colonialism and apartheid in Namibia has contributed greatly to the population’s present social struggles. The extreme inequality and dispossession are the cause of the bleak circumstances for Namibia’s poor. One of those circumstances today is homelessness in Namibia.

Facts About Poverty in Namibia

Namibia’s rate of unemployment is 33.4%, and 20% of the population lives in the slums. In 2017, Namibia has rated the second most unequal country in the world, second only to South Africa. A 2018 study showed that greater than 90% of Namibians do not qualify for a housing loan, and thus are unable to buy houses. Additionally, the price of housing continues to skyrocket, excluding low-income households from purchasing homes. It was estimated in 2016 that nearly 90% of Namibians earned less than N$2,700 a month, which in itself excludes them from mortgage eligibility.

Homelessness in Namibia

In Namibia, there is an alarmingly high number of people who have dwellings but no formal houses. The rate of shacks to brick houses rose to 4:1 by 2016. The informal settlements that have arisen out of peoples’ need for housing lack potable water, electricity or toilet facilities. This lack of resources increases the population’s susceptibility to diseases such as cholera, polio and Hepatitis E. In addition, shack fires are common occurrences, often resulting in loss of life. Homeless people in Namibia often take refuge in unused city buildings, on park benches, in abandoned houses and under bridges.

In the age of COVID-19, the Namibian government has rounded up hundreds of Namibia’s homeless people. Additionally, the government provides tent shelters for homeless people and encourages them to seclude themselves to prevent the spread of the virus. Moreover, concerns over sanitation have arisen, especially as certain members of the population have tuberculosis (TB). Food is provided by churches, but it is not enough. The beds are reportedly too close together to comply with social distancing.

Solutions to Help Reduce Homelessness in Namibia

On the bright side, in 2018, Hage Geingob, Namibia’s president,  issued a statement addressing the housing crisis. He called the state of affairs a “humanitarian crisis.” The president announced that a N$10 million donation would be given to the Namibia Shack Dweller’s Federation by Mobile Telecommunications Company (MTC) to build 270 low-cost houses throughout the country. The Namibia Shack Dweller’s Federation is a group of Namibians seeking adequate housing for themselves and their communities. The Shack Dweller’s Federation is able to secure land for community members in need through community savings and government contributions. In addition, the group had about 25,000 members as of March 2020. Most of the members are women making under N$4,000 monthly. The Shack Dweller’s Federation has built over 3488  houses to date, which has been distributed to new homeowners.

MTC is Namibia’s leading digital enabler. MTC announced a performance competition, “MTC Knockout Project,” among 30 public personalities. Additionally, corporations will have the opportunity to pledge N$50 thousand on behalf of any of the competing personalities. The goal is to raise N$1 million to combat homelessness in Namibia.

The housing situation in Namibia is in crisis. This is due to high land prices, low wages, high unemployment rate and high mortgages rates. Luckily, the government and other organizations are working to combat these issues. Additionally, with the building of affordable housing, the increase of viable job opportunities and the support of food banks, homelessness in Namibia will sharply decrease in the coming years.

Elise Ghitman
Photo: Flickr