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Poverty has been identified as one of the root cause factors for other social ills such as gender based violence, and alcohol and substance abuse in the Okavango district. This was revealed by the Okavango District Council (ODC) chairman, Gaopalelwe Ronald during the just ended full council meeting.
ODC’s Department of Social and community Development late last month hosted National Mental Health and Psycho-Social Support Forum 2023 in Shakawe that sought to discuss issues that affect mental health, in pursuit to seek guidance and solutions to those issues.
According to Ronald, during the activations and pre activities around mental health issues the issue that emerged mostly was poverty which eventually led to such social ills.
Ronald believes that these issues that were raised boil down to community leaders finding ways to attract investors into the district to create jobs.
Okavango remains amongst the poorest areas in the country. In 2021, results of the Okavango sub-district poverty profiling as according to a UNDP article identified prominent types of poverty in the sub-district being, societal, income, shelter and sanitation, and food poverty.
The key poverty drivers were found to be lack of employment opportunities; non-availability of basic infrastructure and limited market access which make it challenging for households to pursue profitable economic activities; uncoordinated policies and programmes and their ineffective targeting; as well as human/wildlife conflicts given that the sub-district is in the geographical area where there are large numbers of wildlife animals.
“The key findings from the profiling exercise showed that the district is disproportionately poverty-stricken, with monetary poverty level of 37.7% and multidimensional poverty level of 34.6% against the national levels of 16.3% and 17.2% respectively. At 68%, the sub-district has a significantly high number of households that are headed by females. The unemployment level is also very high, with 8,142 households heads unemployed out of a total of 10,373 captured in the sub-district’s data system.”
The article further read, the level of education attainment is extremely low with only 10.5% of the households’ heads having attained at least a General Certificate of Secondary Education (BGCSE). Access to sanitation services and the level of use of electricity were also very low, with 66% of the households having no toilet facilities and only 27% of the households using electricity as a source of lighting. On average, the households own very few assets, hence, coupled with the high level of unemployment, the sub-district’s sources of livelihood are highly limited.
Meanwhile Ronald indicated that the August forum on Mental Health and Psycho-Social Support came at a time when Okavango region is experiencing a high number of child sexual abuse cases. According to him, the district currently has 155 pending cases out of which 143 are of defilement, 8 rape and 4 are social cases. He revealed that the department has closed a total of 62 cases this financial year, most of them being defilement cases.
“This paints a very bad picture on the safety of children in our families and communities and is not good for our mental health, it brings trauma to both the child and community,” he lamented.