Namibia plans to host international drought conference

08 Dec 2015 11:10am

By Pearl Coetzee PARIS, 08 DEC (NAMPA) -

Namibia is planning to host a conference on drought for the African continent and other countries affected by drought in August 2016. The exact date of the conference will be announced in due course, Minister of Environment and Tourism, Pohamba Shifeta said on the sidelines of the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 21) climate change conference in Paris, France.

The COP 21 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) commenced on 30 November and ends on 11 December 2015. The conference was initially scheduled for 11 to 15 May 2015 but was in April this year postponed until further notice.

Shifeta told Nampa on Saturday the conference will not be limited to Namibia and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Region alone, but will also include countries that have been affected by drought over the past few years.

"It is not only Africa that is experiencing drought but also countries such as the United States of America (USA), Brazil, North Korea, Australia and Cuba. These are countries we want to be part of the event. Funding to host the conference is also not a problem," he said.

Drought occurs when there is not enough water to sustain people, plants and animals for an unusual period of time. The said countries are bearing the brunt of much lower-than-average rainfall over the past few years, wreaking havoc on millions of peoples' lives and livelihoods.

Shifeta said many experts including the Geneva-based organisation, the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), which provides a scientific voice on the state and behaviour of the Earth's atmosphere and climate, will also form part of the event.

With regards to Namibia's preparedness for drought over the years, he raised the concern that the country was never prepared to deal with the affected communities and their livelihoods.

"Drought is not an emergency - we have to be prepared every year and all the time. Early warning systems need to be in place. We are experiencing serious water scarcities at the moment and our underground water resources will dry up if we do not get enough rain this year. The only way now for us is sea water desalination."

Early warning systems need to consist of facilitated public education and awareness as well as warnings to ensure there is a constant state of preparedness, said Shifeta. While the causes vary from country to country, the chance of more intense droughts in the future as a result of man-made climate change is only increasing as regional extremes of rainfall - both more and less - remain likely, according to the United Nations (UN) Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Namibia and the whole of southern Africa are experiencing a follow-up drought year that is in many areas worse than the 2013 drought. In May 2013, former President Hifikepunye Pohamba declared a state of emergency.

In November this year, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Ocha) said more than 370 000 people are at risk of food and livelihood insecurities in Namibia. (NAMPA) PC/LI/AS