Poverty after the floods

Nxaba and her family
Nxaba and her family

In the aftermath of the floods that hit D’Kar earlier this year, the Xhaoka family is battling to survive. In a tiny mud and sheet iron shack, 26 children and 12 adults sleep and starve, exposed to all forms of diseases. Mmegi Correspondent, LEINANYANA TSIANE paid the family a visit this week

GANTSI: At times, the Xhaoka family goes without eating a single meal the whole day, a period they spend remembering the unfortunate circumstances that led to their current misery.

When the heavens opened over D’Kar early this year, scores of impoverished families gathered their meagre possessions and took advantage of the relief provided by NGOs and government.

When the floodwaters receded, they left some families such as the Xhaokas in greater distress than before.

A Mmegi newscrew that visited the family this week found glaring evidence of deepening poverty.

As one approaches the area where the family lives, a makeshift shack comes into view.

The rickety structure is made of mud and roofed with two iron sheets.  The shack does not have a single window except for a small space built into one side to provide some form of ventilation.

Members of the family are preparing maize meal in a small pot on the fire and the quantity is clearly no match for the numbers present. 

There is no meat, relish or even soup in sight to accompany the maize meal.

Children are walking by barefoot under the scorching sun and one glance at their sunken eyes tells a story of grinding hunger.

The family spokesperson is Nxaba Xhaoka, an 18-year-old who schooled only as far as Standard Five and has a baby who is almost a year old. 

In the family, she is the only one slightly proficient in Setswana, making her the unofficial spokesperson. 

The rest of the family speaks the Sesarwa dialect common throughout D’Kar.

“We all live and sleep in this shack,” explains Nxaba.

“There are 26 children and 12 adults who sleep in here.

We all try to cram in like sardines every night.

“This is dangerous for the small children as it is easy for them to catch infectious diseases like tuberculosis.”

According to Nxaba, many of the children are offspring of sisters and aunts, some of whom have found temporary employment in the Ipelegeng programme. 

The children’s ages range from six months to 13 years and none of them are in school.

Sometimes the children are able to secure odd jobs at nearby farms and thus, they too bring something to the table.

“Three of their mothers are employed in Ipelegeng and they live in Gantsi. 

The little that they get, we all share.  It is not enough, but what can we do,” Nxaba says with an air of resignation.

What saddens the teenager is that the family has not been enrolled to receive destitute assistance even though she says the Gantsi District Council is fully aware of their plight.

“This makes it very difficult for us to sustain ourselves,” she explains.

The Xhaoka family first moved to D’Kar after their aging patriarch fell ill while working at a farm in Rooibrak.

“We had to bring him to D’Kar for medical assistance.  Even here, where we are staying is not our home.

“A Good Samaritan gave it to us as we had no where to stay in D’Kar.

“We can’t go anywhere because my dad is very sickly and my mother too is starting to have difficulties seeing. She is partially blind,” Nxaba says.

Even after the Good Samaritan’s intervention, the Xhaoka family found itself back to square one when floods hit the rural settlement at the beginning of the year. 

Like other victims, the family found themselves without food or clothes as the waters disappeared with their belongings.

For Nxaba, it was only by the grace of the Lord that the children escaped the raging waters.

“When the floods came, we were all crammed in the shack and we spent the whole night on our feet, some carrying the children on our backs because we were scared they were going to drown,” she sadly recalls.

“Now life is very hard on us.”

The teenager casts an eye to the skies and reveals her fears. With the rain season once again upon the area, Nxaba is fighting off a sense of déjà vu.

“We dread rain clouds because they mean trouble for us.  If we had our way, there would be no rains, but again we can’t live without them because we have to plough our little fields for sustainability.

“We are planning to find another shack before the floods catch us unawares,” she says.

The Xhaoka family is appealing to the government and other well-wishers to assist with at least a small house and food.

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