As Namibia continues to battle a third wave of Covid-19 that has seen a slew of infections and deaths, former footballers Marley Ngarissimo and Stephen Mbaysa have opened up about burying several family members in one day.
Mbesa, 46, buried six members of his family in one day, while Ngarissimo, 42, witnessed the burial of three of his relatives on the same day after they succumbed to Covid-19.
Ngarizemo has lost 15 family members as a result of the complications of Covid-19, while Mpaisa has lost eight of his relatives so far.
Ngarissimo says his father, Naftali Katowu, who was 80, succumbed to the virus, and his older brother followed suit a week later.
The deceased’s other family includes three of his brothers, his sister’s wife, an uncle and some of his uncles.
“They died within a month, from the first week of June to the first week of July. It was really hard for my family, but we had to accept the tragedies as a family,” Ngarissimo, a former Brave Warriors player, says.
Namibia had 1,064 Covid-19 deaths announced in July – an increase from 726 deaths announced in June.
This is after the country recorded just 187 deaths in May this year.
Yesterday, 63 Covid-19 deaths were announced.
What’s worrying is that as of yesterday, 565 Covid-19 patients were hospitalized with 115 in intensive care units (ICUs) – up from 112 in the ICU the day before.
So far, the country has recorded a total of 113,905 infections, with 90,199 recoveries, and a total of 2,620 deaths.
The most difficult, Ngarissimo says, was the loss of one of his brothers and sister-in-law, respectively.
“I mean, at one of the funerals, we had to bury three family members. On the day one of my aunts was buried, my brother, his wife and my father, who tested positive earlier after attending a funeral, had to be hospitalized.”
The former football player says he can’t believe his father, who was an iron man, died the way he did.
He says his father, who died on June 23, could have come to his rescue had it not been for the lack of oxygen the country faced at the height of the third wave.
The late Katuuo was a senior advisor to the Maharero Royal House, and Ngarizemo describes him as a man known for his leadership skills and being a gentleman.
Katuuo had 32 children in total.
“He was also respected by his community. The most painful thing was the fact that he couldn’t say goodbye to us, but also the fact that as Iron Man, he didn’t deserve to die the way he did,” Ngarissimo says. .
He says the family has been trying to come to terms with the death of his father, who was in a stable condition prior to his death, noting that they cannot determine the exact cause of his sudden death.
“Two days after hospitalization, our father was given oxygen, and as far as we were concerned, he was in stable condition. It seems they have removed him from oxygen to give it to another patient, but we will never know.”
“We wanted to understand exactly what happened,” he says.
His 12-year-old daughter lost both her paternal and maternal grandparents on the same day due to Covid-19.
At the time of death and funerals, six family members were taken to hospital, says Ngarissimo, who is also the coach of the Young Africans football club that created him, but they are now better and isolated at home.
He trains at Aminuis in the Omaheke District.
“On the positive side, we haven’t lost anyone to illness recently, which is a good thing,” he says.
Ngarizemo, who has been fully vaccinated with the Sinopharm vaccine, says more people from Ovaherero are now aware of the severity of the pandemic and are being vaccinated.
“I had my first hit on May 28,” he says. “Previously my community was afraid of vaccinations, and would come up with various plots, but now they make sure they are vaccinated.”
Children in shock
Meanwhile, Mbesa says that six members of his family who were buried on the same day died within two weeks.
This includes two uncles, one of whom was the eldest of the Mpaesa family, Favie Mpaesa (81).
“All six chests were left from one house and buried in the same cemetery,” Mpesa says.
Other family members include an aunt, cousin, and grandmother.
“We buried an aunt on Saturday but another member of the family died earlier today (yesterday). He is an uncle,” said Mbaysa, who is also a former Brave Warriors player.
He is also the former African Stars captain and assistant coach at Young Africans with Ngarissimo at Aminois.
He said most of the deaths surprised them, but that the older family members had to accept that.
“There are a few family members, the younger ones, who have not fully accepted the death. It may also be because they were in shock because they may have been close to the family members who died,” Mbaysa said.
The burial took place at Otjinene in the Omaheke District.