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OUT IN THE COLD: The Lebatsame family

Desperate families starving in the land of plenty

The recent Heritage Foundation report ranking Botswana the 3rd most prosperous country in Sub Saharan Africa, will mean little to 34 homeless families in Salajwe village who are literally starving to death.

Torrential rains which swept across Kweneng District in February left many families destitute in the Western side of Salajwe in Letlhakeng Sub District.

According to the Salajwe village disaster report, 34 households lost their homes and were reduced to living in tents.

For a mother-of-five who lost her traditional hut some good news came when Kweneng Council Trust conducted 
a ground breaking ceremony last month to commence building the family a two-roomed house.

It comes as some relief to 37-year-old Tshwaro Tlhokamatlho and her family, who nevertheless are still left with the problem of how to feed themselves.

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“It was a difficult situation as an unemployed mother. At first we stayed with neighbours, then later we were given a small tent by the council. It is also challenging as the tent is freezing when it’s cold and hot when the temperatures are high,” she explained, shivering involuntarily.

DESPERATE: Tshwaro Tlhokamatlho

Tshwaro sometimes get assistance from social workers who provide school uniforms for her children, but she still struggles to get food as she cares for her two-year-old daughter together with her eldest daughter’s 10-months-old son as the mother only completed Form 5 last year.

The children’s father occasionally gets part time jobs, but the payments scarcely last a week.

Impoverished as the family are, their situation is better than that of the Lebatsame family of 25 who are in dire straights.

Their only breadwinner is 68-year-old Letsoma who receives a monthly food ration from social workers. For him to feed his family requires a miracle akin to the Biblical five loaves and two fishes.

With his wife, Mosadiwadingaka Letsoma, 65, and their seven children together with grandchildren, they sleep cramped like sardines in one tent after they also lost the family hut in the rains.

One of Lebatsame’s children, 28-year-old Ompifetse Lebatsame, told how life is difficult for them without any means to survive. Their only source of income is temporarily and sporadic enrolment in the Ipelegeng Programme.

HUMBLE HOME: Tent where the 25-member Lebatsame family sleep

“Sometimes we only manage to eat only after taking our babies for monthly weight check-ups and get Tsabana, but that doesn’t last because we are many,” he lamented.

Concerned Salajwe Councillor, Lopang Sebutlenyane said they have noted the family’s need and have tried to engage social workers, who after an assessment only enrolled one family member.

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“The family showed serious need during the first lockdown when they were only given a package for three to five people in a household. When we consulted the council authorities they were given two packages for 12 people. But this is for a family of 25!”

Sebutlanyane was shocked when he checked their situation after the rains to find starving children with their breastfeeding mother sitting on the ground outside their destroyed mud house.

The councillor is appealing to the public to assist his area by providing food as many families are badly stricken by poverty.

Botswana’s overall economic freedom ranking may take it above the regional and word average, but that doesn’t bring a crumb of comfort to such suffering. Help is desperately needed from Good Samaritans much closer to home.

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