Namibia
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‘I’m afraid of infecting my children with TB’

As winter casts its icy spell over the city, a group of homeless people in Windhoek find themselves battling the biting cold, and finding warmth in making fires every day as soon as the sun starts setting.

One of them is Hanlie Ses, an HIV-positive mother of two, who was recently diagnosed with tuberculosis (TB).

On the coldest nights, Ses and her daughters, aged 8 and 10, are forced to huddle together under one blanket.

“Either you make fire to warm your hands and feet, or you go to bed freezing, because one blanket does not make things any better,” she says.

Ses says she is hoping for an extra blanket – not only to save herself from the extreme cold, but also to avoid infecting her children with TB.

“I am currently on antiretroviral drugs, and was recently diagnosed with tuberculosis,” she says.

Ses, who lives at Khomasdal Soccer Stadium, says although she shares the blanket with her daughters, she avoids pulling it over her head to prevent infecting them.

“Infecting my children is my worst fear, because it has unbearable symptoms, which I feel they would not be able to withstand,” she says.

She says she has always ensured to take her children for vaccinations, reducing their chances of getting infected.

“Whenever I cough while we are under that blanket, I feel like the worst mother ever, but at that point there is nothing I can do.
“I don’t even think of opening the tent’s door for fresh air, because we will die from the cold,” she says.

During the coldest month, the community makes fire from 18h00 to ensure they keep warm.

According to another homeless resident, Brenda Bock (39), making a fire is a crucial part of their everyday lives, as the absence of that could lead to freezing to death.

“We are pleading for blankets or even jerseys, because July is coming, and this is nothing yet. It is going to get worse,” she says.
Bock describes winter as her least favourite season as sleeping seems impossible.

“Winter is for the rich, for us poor people survival is a hard battle,” she says.

Bock says normally their main struggle is for food, but in winter they fight both hunger and cold.

“Imagine going to sleep hungry and cold,” she says.

ISOLATION NEEDED

Dr Bernard Haufiku, a medical doctor, says Ses’ situation is serious.

“As far as I am concerned, the best solution is isolating the mother from her children, because no preventive medication or injection is 100% effective,” he says.

Haufiku says the matter should be looked into to map out TB cases and prevent them.

He says people suffering from TB should be on effective medication and advised to go for further examination.

Meanwhile, the Namibia Meteorological Services on Monday advised crop and small stock farmers in the //Kharas region to take the necessary precautions as temperatures are expected to drop below zero degrees this week.

On Sunday, the meteorological services says, temperatures at Aus and Karasburg will drop to minus one degree Celsius, while temperatures will drop to zero degree at Keetmanshoop.

“These low temperatures are caused by the arrival of a strong, cold front system from the south-western parts of South Africa,” the advisory says.

The highest temperatures expected throughout these areas will be 14 degrees Celsius.

Keetmanshoop residents woke up to foggy and misty weather conditions earlier this week.

The conditions are expected to last up to two days.