OMUTHIYA - The Ministry of Gender Equality and Social Welfare in Oshikoto Region has a total of 37,891 registered orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) who are beneficiaries of numerous social grants being paid by government as part of safety nets to reduce poverty.
Orphans in Namibia just like war veterans, elderly and vulnerable citizens and people living with disabilities get poverty-reducing grants from government that each year spends billions of Namibian dollars, making it among a few African countries that provide such grants.
Of the total, the larger mass is of vulnerable children, which stands at 24,601, followed by maintenance grant with 11,548, foster grant 1,271 and the least, 471 for special maintenance grant.
The number, according to the senior administration officer in the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare in Omuthiya, Ephraim Haikwiyu, in recent years has increased sharply. He said in a month they can register about 1,000 OVC.
Haikwiyu added that they receive more “vulnerable” applications than any other categories due to absent fathers, as well as a huge number of parents whose income is less than N$1,000 per month, which automatically qualifies their children for poverty-reducing social grants.
“In recent years we have been undertaking outreach community meetings, and the increase in number signifies that they do understand the purpose and the work we do. However, we encounter challenges with father figures whose documents are always needed but they are not forthcoming, and in some instances do not always want to be involved,” stated Haikwiyu.
He noted that despite the fact there is a high number of grant applicants, their applications take longer for approval and before they could start to draw such benefits from the state.
“We receive more applications of vulnerable but their approval takes longer because we need to create space in the system. By that, I mean removing those that have reached the age of 18. Meanwhile in an event where a child qualifies for more options we normally prioritise an option which would last longer such as a special grant which can be extended to 21 years,” he said.
“A foster care grant is given to any person who undertakes the care of a child who is considered to be in need of care. Whereas maintenance grant is given for a child whose parent earns less than N$1,000 a month and supports a child under the urge of 18, where the other parent receives an old age pension or disability grant or has been in prison for more than six months. There is also a special maintenance grant which is given to a biological parent with aged under 16 living with a disability. They all receive a monthly grant of N$250 per child,” explained Haikwiyu, while highlighting on how they are administering the OVC in the region.
Despite government’s efforts to assist the needy, Haikwiyu said they have been some cases whereby people are manoeuvring the system using loopholes to register children even though they do not qualify to register more kids than it’s allowed for one person.
“We do not necessarily investigate, but if we suspect foul play we will definitely follow up and if it is proven the application will be deleted. It becomes difficult for us to prove beyond reasonable doubt because applicants obtain sworn police declarations which are part of the requirement for validity, so if they are lying to the police whichever way it is not easy to go against as we have faith and trust that all that is done through the authority is genuine,” he concluded.