16 Aug 2013 08:01
WINDHOEK, 16 AUG (NAMPA) - More than 778 000 people are either severely or moderately food insecure in northern Namibia.
These include an estimated 109 000 children under the age of five who are at risk of acute malnutrition, according to a media statement issued by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) on Thursday.
Although the emergency is in its early stages, the situation is expected to worsen over the next few months, making it harder for families to cope and survive. Livestock and crops have perished and many households are selling assets and skipping meals, the statement cautioned.
Neighbouring Angola is no exception, as an estimated 1,5 million people in southern Angola are also now food insecure.
UNICEF is seeking international support for those affected, particularly women and children, to avert a nutritional and health crisis in both countries. Along with other humanitarian aid agencies, the fund is appealing for US dollars 7.4 million (about N.dollars 74 million) to fund its response in Namibia.
About US dollars 14.3 million (about N.dollars 143 million) is needed for Angola, more specifically in the worst-affected provinces including Cunene, Namibe and Kuando Kubango, as well as in the southern parts of Benguela and Huila.
As one of the worst droughts in 30 years grips Namibia and Angola, the threat of hunger, malnutrition, disease and lost livelihoods is growing, according to the statement.
Regional Director for UNICEF Eastern and Southern Africa, Steven Allen was quoted in the statement as saying climate change and environmental pressure are making life increasingly difficult for the poorest and most marginalised in remote communities, where daily life is already very challenging for children.
Food and water shortages now increase the likelihood of disease and malnutrition, he stressed.
Allen expressed concern about local reports from the field, which indicate that children are dropping out of school and are being separated from their parents, a clear sign of the stress and vulnerability families face as they try to cope with the drought.
The statement said anecdotal reports show that school attendance has dropped as a result of the drought.
In addition, as wells and boreholes dry up, the lack of food and access to water will become major challenges. In Namibia, 41 per cent of schools have no access to a water supply.
In Angola, reduced rainfall has resulted in a gradual decline of the ground water table and many rivers are progressively drying out, and an estimated 40 to 50 per cent of water points are no longer functioning.
UNICEFs support to the governments of Namibia and Angola will focus on the prevention and treatment of malnutrition and disease, provision of water treatment and sanitation, mitigation of child protection risks and support for childrens access to education, through coordinated engagement with local and international partners, it added.