Hunger fuels sex work, human trafficking, says councillor

SEX WORK … Hunger and poverty in especially urban areas are reportedly pushing more people into sex work to feed their families. Photo for illustration purposes only. File photo

Karasburg-West constituency councillor Enseline Beukes says the constituency is faced with a steep challenge in curbing human trafficking and sex work due to hunger and poverty in urban areas.

She says the criteria for providing drought-relief food only caters for rural areas, whereas more people in rural areas are able to feed themselves – either from livestock or gardening – while the situation in urban areas is more dire.

“We really need the Office of the Prime Minister to review the criteria set for the distribution of drought relief food to also include urban areas.

“Urban people have no safety net if they are unemployed. And we are struggling to curb human trafficking and sex work due to this situation.

“People are resorting to selling themselves to put food on the table or provide for their children,” Beukes says.

She says children are most affected by hunger, followed by pensioners.

“This vulnerable group is dependent on elders.

If your elders have nothing to give you, what can you do? Pensioners take out loans at NamPost and are left with N$500 after deductions to pay their water and electricity bills. What is left for food?” Beukes asks.

Her office works in close collaboration with private sector companies that distribute vegetables twice a year and provide food baskets to the elderly once a year, apart from government programmes, including drought relief and livestock support programmes.

“We are part of the disaster risk management committee also, but because of a lack of funds it is not really functioning,” she says. Jeremiah Goeieman, Berseba constituency councillor, describes hunger in his constituency as acute.

“Unemployment is over 50% in the constituency. Protracted drought for seven years has led to farmers losing their livelihoods. Covid has resulted in job losses, and many people who led households died during the pandemic, leaving children without food,” he says.

“On a daily basis people are flocking to our offices to see if there is something for them to eat, or to work for food. We have utilised funds of about N$1,2 million and bought lay hens and chickens – mostly for women and the youth to support them.

“The second project is production assistance, where we assisted about 50 households with production tools, and now they face an acute water shortage, which hampers community and backyard gardens.

“The people are trying, but the environment is challenging,” Goeieman says.

“We also give hampers to pensioners, but find disputes with young people limit the amount we can afford to give. We have rolled out a drought-relief programme, but the criteria is that the total income per household must be below N$2 600. “Then you get to pensioners’ houses that receive N$2 800 where there is nothing, and administrators in the central government do not understand these scenarios,” the councillor says.

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