by Ndalimpinga Iita
WINDHOEK, Nov. 21 (Xinhua) -- On a sunny Friday, at an informal settlement in the Moses Garoeb Constituency in Namibian capital of Windhoek, children gathered under a tree. They had congregated at the community centre, which has become their haven amid challenges exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Children, especially the poorest and most marginalized are amongst the hardest hit from disrupted services and increases in poverty, according to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).
Hendrina Kashonga, facilitator of the centre on Friday said that although the centre opened in 2015, since the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic, they made adjustments and shifted norms.
The community centre has since focused on empowering children in Namibia to cope with COVID-19.
"We educate the children about hygiene and safety measures. We also help with educating them in a safe approach after prolonged closure of schools," she said.
Most children in the area were also out of school, and the centre provides free education for the majority of the disadvantaged children in the area.
According to Kashonga, the aim was to curb the social problems in the informal settlement of Nalitungwe.
"Parents lost their jobs, thus limited resources to meet daily needs for children, which leaves them vulnerable to hunger and other challenges," she added.
To address hunger, the centre also runs a soup kitchen three times a week, where children are served a meal. For Selma, a seven-year-old beneficiary said that she appreciated the support and help given by the centre.
"We do not have much food at home. With food at the centre, I can study better," she said.
While for eight years old Johannes, the centre provides a safe and clean playing environment with friends.
"In the past, we just played on the riverbed, which was unsafe and dirty. I like this space. They also teach us how to stay safe and prevent COVID-19," he said.
Parents have since lauded the centre for empowering the children to overcome the challenges posed by COVID-19.
"It made a huge difference. The centre helped children adjust to new social dynamics such as play and interaction patterns to curtail the spread of COVID-19. And also help us as parents and broader Namibia," said Ndapewa Nelago, a parent in the informal settlement.
In the meantime, to continuously empower the children, the centre started a gardening project.
"We aspire to involve the parents of these children in a form of empowerment. When we empower the parent, we improve the wider community wellbeing, including that of children," Kashonga said.
Recent government reports show that as of Nov. 10 this year, 15 percent of the COVID-19 confirmed cases in Namibia are in the 0-19 age group. This means one in seven of the total confirmed cases are children.
"Not only are children suffering the direct consequences of this disease, the longer this crisis continues, the worse it gets for children. Missed education, worsening malnutrition, and rapidly rising poverty all threaten a lost generation" said Rachel Odede, UNICEF representative to Namibia.
Namibia celebrated World Children's Day on Nov. 20 under the theme of "Kids Take Over" as part of the global "Reimagine" campaign which is focused on engaging children and young people. Enditem