Budget cut hits Omaheke drought efforts

Windhoek – The Omaheke Regional Council has reduced the number of beneficiaries of drought relief food by 32 percent from 24 022 to 16 328, citing limited financial resources available for the drought relief food programme.

Speaking to New Era yesterday, the senior public relations officer at the regional council, Tauno Lileka, said the council late last year received a directive from the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) to conduct food security registration in order to determine the number of people who have been severely affected by the drought.

According to him, this was to reduce the number of people receiving drought relief due to limited resources available for the drought relief programme.

“The purpose of this registration was to ensure that only those classified as ‘poor’ and ‘very poor’ benefited from drought relief, as per OPM guidelines,” he explained.

He added that those in urban areas had to be excluded, even if they were classified as ‘urban poor’ or ‘urban very poor’ as the programme only targets people living in rural areas, as per OPM guidelines.

Otjinene Constituency Councillor Erwin Katjizeu recently raised concerns on the cut, saying the new directive has left many of the poor in his constituency hopeless.

“There has been a big cut in distribution, a good example being Okorukurure, one of the poorest villages in the whole of Otjinene Constituency, but cut with 80 percent distribution in the relief programme from 126 beneficiaries to 24 beneficiaries,” he said.

“Where will the 102 former beneficiaries benefit from and why were they receiving food in the first place?” he questioned.

This, he said, has led to residents flocking to his office asking for clarity as to why only a few benefited from the relief food.

Ovaherero Traditional Authority (OTA) Chief Ismael Metirapi shared the same sentiments, saying that he is disappointed with the huge cut in drought relief food that was, according to him, done without consultation.

“This needs to change – we are still suffering from drought, we haven’t received any rain,” he said.

“We are hard hit by the drought, and people in Otjinene are no exception so the government should look into this matter as a matter of urgency and make all the necessary changes,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Agricultural Inputs and Household Food Security Situation report released in December showed that household food security continues to weaken as most households that were able to harvest last season are reported to have depleted their last season’s poor harvest.

“It was reported that last season’s harvest which was being supplemented with market purchases only lasted at most up to August this year, leaving households completely dependent on the market and drought relief food programme to access food,” reads the report.

The report says last season’s drought was very severe when compared with the current season’s drought which showed a slight improvement in agricultural production.

According to the report, generally the problem facing the country continues to be lack of food reserves or carryover stock at household level, thereby exposing the majority of households to the vast impacts of food insecurity.

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