Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Too Little, too late - again

Almost one million people out of Namibia’s 2.3 million population face moderate to serious levels of food insecurity. One-third of the population lives on less than $1 a day, and Namibia ranked 120 out of 187 countries on the 2012 UNDP Human Development Index. Malnutrition is the second-most common cause of death recorded for children under five, even in non-drought years. And with the onset of this year’s drought, an estimated 109,000 children under five are at risk of acute malnutrition.

The Namibian government in May estimated this year's harvest would yield 42 percent less than 2012. "Namibia still does not feed itself, and the middle-income classification comes from livestock, mining and fisheries industries - [this] does not provide an accurate situation on the ground," Cousins Gwanama, head of the Department of Crop Sciences at the University of Namibia in Windhoek, told Al Jazeera. 

Japhet Iitenge, director of the Disaster Risk Management office, said "Our needs start with food to feed the people. It is the ultimate goal to provide food and water for both animals and people, but there are other needs to avert the suffering of our population."

Farmers across the country wait for food rations and for the international community to take the situation more seriously. In May, Namibian President Hifikepunye Pohamba was forced to declare a state of emergency and requested $33.7 million in international support to avert a crisis.  Algeria donated $1m in food aid but the reaction from the rest of the international community has been poor. Without people dying en masse and absent images of decaying cattle skeletons across the sand, the world is unlikely to respond Namibia's desperation anytime soon.

Mukaokondunga Tjikundi says the family have no expectations of receiving help from anyone. "We are just collecting wood, selling them, trying (to survive). We have no expectations of government, of anyone, because you can never know when the help will end."

"Given that we are human beings, we wait for that moment when people start dying," said International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ Jack Ndemena, water and sanitation officer. "But this is a situation that can be arrested. We can try to help now in order not to go to that extreme situation when people start dying."

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