Namibia: Households need emergency aid

News and Press Release
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By Desie Heita

Windhoek - A significant household population, many of whom are female-headed families, in the four northern regions is unable to feed itself, partly because of floods early this year, and largely due to late erratic and damaging rainfall and crop pests such as armyworms and birds that hit the region including areas spared by the floods.

Flood-affected households only had food stocks to last until September 2008, while the non-flood affected households had food stock levels sufficient until January 2009.

The emergency food security assessment by the United Nations' World Food Programme (WFP) is recommending food emergency assistance to flood-affected households and cash or food emergency assistance to those hit by late erratic and damaging rainfall and crop pests.

The WFP report says food emergency assistance should be able to help the affected people until April 2009. In some areas, people would also need additional agricultural support to cope with the upcoming agricultural season.

The WFP conducted a household assessment between May and June this year in conjunction with the Government and the Directorate of Emergency Management following the recommendation of the March 2008 joint mission of the Government, Namibian Red Cross Society and the United Nations to the same areas.

According to the WFP flood assessment report, the floods affected 52 000 people, while crop pests and late erratic rains hit 94 000 people. The people are in the Ohangwena, Oshana, Omusati, and Oshikoto regions.

"Although technical support may be required to implement some of the recommendations, the mission believes that the Government, through the Directorate of Emergency Management, has the budgetary capacity to address at least the most pressing food need responses," reads the WFP report.

For its part, the Government has asked the Namibian Red Cross Society to help with the provision of seed and agricultural tools to the regions hit by the flood.

At its recent meeting, Cabinet approved the final report on the implementation of the flood emergency in the north/north-eastern regions of Namibia.

Red Cross has also been asked to coordinate the establishment of effective community-based early warning systems with all relevant stakeholders involved to minimise the risk of damage to property and loss of lives in future floods.

The Roads Authority has been asked to work closely with the Ministry of Works and Transport to repair the roads and bridges that were affected by the floods, while the national water utility was asked to start with immediate repair of the water canal for human and livestock consumption. The national water utility was also asked to serve as an active member of the national hydrology committee to be set up by the Department of Water Affairs, in the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry.

The purpose of the national hydrology committee is to conduct hydrology studies, as well as an environmental impact assessment with the aim of looking into the possibilities of deepening the rivers upstream from Oshakati and widening the culverts at the bridges in the four northern regions to allow more water outflow.