Food vulnerability, an ever-present reality for the children of Namibia’s Maltahöhe community, spiraled into a crisis of malnutrition under the pressure of COVID-19.
Remote and vulnerable
To find the Namibian community of Maltahöhe, you’d need to travel about 300 km (186 mi.) south of Windhoek, or to use another point of reference, it’s a two-hour drive from &Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge.
With approximately 6,000 inhabitants, this is a community with deep vulnerabilities: municipal sewerage and electricity services are largely absent, employment opportunities are extremely limited, there is just one primary school and high school, the region is in the midst of a six-year drought and HIV is an ever-present reality.
A collaborative effort
For over 15 years, &Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge has been supporting a feeding programme for the children of P.A. Schmidt Primary School – with a current enrolment of about 970 learners, this is the only primary school serving the community. Both lodge guests and Africa Foundation, our community development partner, have been integral to the success of this long-term initiative.
Prior to the COVID-19 lockdown, funds for this programme were generated by the guest purchase of solar lantern lights. In addition, guests had the option to donate this lantern to the community as a renewable light source.
Africa Foundation engaged with the community to explore complementary and sustainable ways to provide support. The construction and equipping of a kitchen and dining hall was identified as an effective way to enable the provision of daily hot meals to a large number of children.
For the many children
The school soup kitchen closed along with the school on 17 March as the COVID-19 restrictions came into effect. Just six weeks later, it was evident from the young learners combing the streets in search of food that there was an escalating food crisis.
In a meeting between local councilor, Mr Hercules Jantze, and the School Feeding committee, it was decided to re-open the kitchen on 29 April. There was an overwhelming response. Children from one to 17 years old arrived in their hundreds.
Once again, collaboration saved the day: our &Beyond lodge team was supported by a group of five volunteers and at least one teacher to cook five times a week; teachers to assist the little ones at the hand wash station; teachers sewing masks for those children unable to afford them and the assistance of Africa Foundation in raising donor awareness of this situation.
Going beyond COVID-19
In a community beset with many challenges, this school feeding programme is a shining light. It’s an initiative that unites – that touches hearts and transforms young lives. Ultimately it always has been, and always will be, for the children of Maltahöhe.