Namibia: Kavango villagers face starvation

News and Press Release
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By Petronella Sibeene

RUNDU - Many households are staring hunger in the face in the Kavango Region and are appealing to the Government to speed up its food distribution programme before they face starvation.

The situation is slowly becoming grave with some families having been reduced to foraging for food at the dump site, a few kilometres west of Rundu.

Reports have it that over 112 000 households face serious food insecurity in the Kavango as their crops failed due to prolonged dry spells and floods during the 2007/8 farming season.

"There is completely nothing to eat. The little I harvested could only last for two months," says Anastasia Sehako, a mother caring for seven children at Satotwa village.

She told New Era that she can no longer afford to prepare three meals a day for her family, so she has resorted to only preparing one meal in the evening to ensure the children do not go to sleep on empty stomachs.

Sehako survives by harvesting grass from the riverside used by many for thatching roofs, and cuts wood for sale.

"Sometimes, I sell a bundle of grass for two small cups of maize meal that I use to prepare porridge for the children," she said.

However, it is not always that she finds customers for the barter system.

"We appeal to the Government to do something now. We are vulnerable right now and if nothing is done, we will starve to death," she said.

Elizabeth Ndahepa said families are hungry and survival has become that of the fittest.

Ndahepa, over 60 years old spoke to New Era at the dumpsite. Her clothes could tell the environment in which she forages for food and anything that can be recycled and sold.

"We collect anything edible. I collect empty tins also and sell them to one company that gives N$150 for a full lorry," she says. It takes two to three months for an individual to fill a lorry.

Registered to receive food rations from the Government, Ndahepa said all villagers are eager to receive the much-needed maize meal, cooking oil and tinned fish.

Director of General Services and Personnel at the Kavango Regional Council, Gideon Mufenda, confirmed that thousands of people face serious food insecurity.

He said the registration process of expected beneficiaries is complete and the regional office is busy with transport preparations with the assistance of relevant ministries through the Office of the Prime Minister.

He added that his office on Wednesday received 800 bags of 12.5 kilogrammes of maize meal from a local supplier, Pentagon.

"We have received reports that people are in need and as soon as the nitty-gritty is sorted out, we will start with the distribution of food starting with households where the situation is known to be desperate," said Mufenda.

Government two months ago announced it has created a Comprehensive Emergency Food Scheme with N$228 753 940 set aside to benefit thousands of families facing hunger across the country.

The scheme is expected to benefit 523 633 Namibians with those targeted for support being the elderly, female-headed households, pregnant women and lactating mothers, people living with disabilities and children.

Distribution of food to thousands is expected to start next month.