Nam MPs slam ‘slow – paced’ drought relief

Windhoek ‑ Thousands of drought-affected people in the north and north-western part of Namibia are facing starvation, unless the authorities step in, says Member of Parliament, Katuutire Kaura.
MP Kaura says the already dire food situation in the regions of Ohangwena and Omusati in the north, as well as Kunene in north-west could deteriorate unless the authorities scale up the government emergency food aid programme.
Namibia received low rainfall during the 2012/13 rainy season, which left an estimated 330 925 people ‑ 14 percent of the country’s population of 2.3 million – in need of food aid.
As a result, President Hifikepunye Pohamba has declared the prevailing drought an emergency, and the government has allocated R200 million to cater for the drought-affected.
Humanitarian aid agencies have also launched appeals to help communities affected by the drought and food crisis. The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has launched an international appeal for about US$7.4 million to fund its response efforts for the rest of 2013.
Kaura, leader of opposition party the DTA of Namibia, said the impact and effects of drought have worsened, “with people struggling to find food, children suffering from malnutrition and animals surviving on dry wood”.
The opposition lawmaker was part of the delegation of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Economics, Natural Resources and Public Administration that visited some of the drought-stricken areas in Ohangwena, Omusati and Kunene regions.
The parliamentary committee was tasked by the National Assembly to monitor the drought situation in the country and give regular updates to Parliament.
Kaura described the situation as dire, saying that many people in some areas are surviving on a 12.5kg bag of maize meal per household that they received only once since the food aid distribution started in June 2013.
Speaking to The Southern Times at the conclusion of the tour, Kaura painted a grim picture of the drought situation due to total crop failure, saying livestock mortality is on the rise while malnutrition is affecting both children and adults.
Although the government has set aside R200 million for the drought, the veteran politician noted, “Our people are dying of hunger on the ground. The distribution of drought relief is at a snail’s pace and even what government is giving to the people is not enough and lacks balance diet”.
According to the statistics Engela Hospital in Ohangwena provided to the parliamentary committee, 28 people have so far died of hunger while 355 were diagnosed suffering from malnutrition.
Ohangwena, one of the most populous regions in Namibia with over 179 000 inhabitants has so far received 3 000 bags of maize meal from the government and the food was only distributed to those that are hardly affected.
Apart from food, access to water is also a huge problem, Kaura said.  He said the situation has worsened in the past six months, and several communal farmers have lost their livestock to the drought.
Kaura said the water situation is so dire that people of Onesi Constituency in Omusati are using raw sewage water from a sewage pond behind the Onesi Secondary School as the only source of water for the animals, posing a health hazard.
“Other constituencies are using traditional boreholes and wells that people dig by hand to get water for themselves and their livestock. Our people do not have water,” he said.
The committee found that in Kunene lack of transport to ferry food aid from the storage facilities to the people is a major challenge. This, according to committee secretary, Protasius Nghileendele, is one reason many people have not yet received their food on time.
Nghileendele said that although Kunene region is using the Namibia Defence Force (NDF) trucks to transport these bags of maize meal, other regions are using private transport and village council vehicles to do so.
The committee also discovered that the school feeding scheme, that is aimed at encouraging children to come to school is not working at some schools, as many learners are missing classes.
This, Nghileendele stressed, was due to lack of grazing for livestock, as families have to relocate from their villages in search of better grazing, forcing children to drop out of school due to long distance.
The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Economics, Natural Resources and Public Administration is expected to compile a report and make recommendations on the visit to be tabled in the National Assembly when it resumes seating.

August 2013
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