Namibian Federation & Namibian Housing Action Group: Responses to COVID-19

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On behalf of the Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia (SDFN) and Namibia Housing Action Group (NHAG) – SDI presents the work to fight COVID-19 across Namibia.

In the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic the Namibian Alliance (Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia and Namibia Housing Action Group (NHAG)) alongside the National Alliance for Informal Settlement Upgrading, have been able to pivot the partnership through facilitating open communication through various channels for communities to receive pertinent updates from local & central government. The Namibian Alliance is positioned as critical to the response plan from the Ministry of Health for community mobilisation and peer to peer learning enabling improved directed health messaging.

Edith Mbanga, Federation leader in Namibia speaks about the community-led responses taken. “As SDFN when COVID-19 came to our ears we look at it as a serious issue that needs to be addressed to make sure our communities understand. With support from NHAG we requested a training from the Ministry of Health & Social Services. Twenty members were trained to educate communities about COVID-19 symptoms and how they can protect themselves from the virus. We are working together with MoH & SS as Federation teams, with homeless people that were living near the river and under the bridges.”

Active cities include the Khomas region, Erongo region, and the Oshana region, with the following priority areas and needs identified: PPE, soaps, hand sanitizers, masks, gloves, buckets and the installation of tippy taps. Food parcels for the households where their source of income has been heavily affected are crucial during lockdown, and for the foreseeable future. Federation have also participated in training in proper hygiene protocols under COVID-19, developing pamphlets and fact sheets being distributed in various languages. The Federation also joined the Psycho-Social Support group led by Ministry of Health & SS to train and deploy volunteers to assist in relocation of street dwellers in Windhoek.

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Edith Mbanga reflects on the economic threat to livelihoods of those in the informal economy as Namibia remains in lockdown until the 4th May 2020. “Because of lockdown, communities who are selling at the markets lost their income – that launched in Namibia this year by Namibian Alliance. We fought for the market to be open with locations for cleaning and sanitizing with authorities at the markets. A team of more than 20 members will educate the informal workers to make the markets clean every morning. They will work at the market 3 days per week. We can use this as an opportunity for us to talk to the people, and hear from them what their plans after lockdown because this is a temporary thing, there is a lot that we are doing.”

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The Standard Bank of Namibia through the Buy-a-Brick initiative with the Namibian Alliance has donated water tanks and hand sanitizers to NHAG for distribution to communities living in informal settlements. The general public is encouraged to make donations into the Standard Buy-a-Brick account for further support in the fight against the spread of COVID-19 in the informal settlements.

Namibia Housing Action Group is a Namibian Service Organisation that aims to support and add value to the activities and processes of the Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia in achieving their mission. It strives to facilitate change in the livelihoods of urban and rural poor through pioneering pro-poor development approaches. Community mobilisation, project management & delivery, lobbying & advocacy, financial resilience & asset building, and data & mapping are the core competencies of the Namibian Alliance that they have been developing for over twenty years.

Please keep following SDI as we highlight the initiatives of SDI affiliates across Africa, Asia & Latin America in the fight against COVID-19 to support the most vulnerable throughout this pandemic.

National Facilitator of the Namibian Federation Awarded UN-Habitat Scroll of Honour

SDFN Centre in Hakana, Windhoek

SDI, the Namibia Housing Action Group and the Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia are pleased to share the news that Edith Mbanga, a member of the People Square Saving group and the National Facilitator of the Federation was awarded the 2011 UN-Habitat Scroll of Honour, the most prestigious award given by the United Nations in recognition of work carried out in the field of human settlements development. The aim of the award is to honour individuals and institutions instrumental in improving the living conditions in urban centres around the world  The World Habitat Awards recognize innovative, sustainable and replicable human settlement projects through out the world. As stated by UN-Habitat:

Ms. Edith Mbanga is personally awarded for her outstanding efforts to improve land access and housing for the poor. Her work has been of special benefit to women living in poverty. Over many years, since the early 1990s she has helped set up various savings and support groups, which she helped into a national network under the Federation. Through her dedication, it is today the largest member-driven organization in the country. Thanks to her drive and energy, today there are over 600 savings groups in Namibia with an estimated 20 thousand members, 65 per cent of whom are women. The Federation has helped more than 4,000 poor households secure land, more than 2,000 build new homes.

SInce 1998, the Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia (SDFN) has been using SDI methodology to mobilize residents of informal settlements, empowering women to work with local and state government to secure access to affordable, secure shelter and basic services. Thirteen years later, SDFN has over six hundred savings groups spread across the country and daily savings of over US$1.4 million. One of their many accomplishments is the completion of the Community Land Information Program (CLIP), in which all informal settlements nationwide were profiled by the SDFN members living there. The self-knowledge gained through the profiling process empowers the community, highlighting their strengths and needs, and putting valuable data in the hands of the shack dweller community. 

For a full list of award recipients, click here.

To learn more about the SDI Alliance in Namibia, click here for the affiliate page, and here for blog posts.