President declares drought emergency

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WINDHOEK - President Hifikepunye Pohamba last Friday declared a national emergency due to the devastating drought that has already killed 4 000 large and small stock.

The current nationwide drought has also affected over 300 000 people classified as food insecure. "Our country is experiencing the wrath of mother nature in the form of a devastating drought," Pohamba said during a press conference on Friday in Windhoek. Pohamba elaborated that unlike the floods in the north and northeastern parts of the country in 2011, the drought this year is affecting the entire country.

"My government is concerned about the destructive impact of the drought because of its nature," he stressed, adding it affects both humans and livestock. New Era previously reported that over 300 000 Namibians in the rural areas have been classified as food insecure and over 4 000 livestock have already succumbed to drought. The drought has devastated many communities and has negatively affected economic activities in the country, according to the president. According to the findings of an inter-agency emergency food security assessment, the harvest prospects for 2012/2013 indicate extreme below average production as drought conditions intensify.

"Crop production in crop producing regions under rain fed conditions indicated a massive reduction in maize production," the president explained, adding that in the communal crop producing regions, the harvest is expected to decrease by 48 percent below average and the production outlook for pearl millet is expected to decrease by 41 percent compared to the last season. The assessment also revealed that household food security in most regions is tightening as the hunger season reaches its peak.

"Most households depleted their food stocks in September last year and mainly depend on the market for food access," said Pohamba. Furthermore, poor grazing conditions are threatening livestock in the country and a considerable number of large and small stock have already died as a result of the drought. "There is an urgent need to sell some livestock to prevent further losses," Phamba once again offered. He also pointed out that floods have destroyed crops in the northeastern part of the country and communal crop farmers were taken by surprise because the floods came earlier than expected.

"The necessary interventions must be put into operation to face this emergency," said the president, adding that it is the duty of the state to ensure that no Namibian goes hungry or dies of hunger. Pohamba highlighted that government should put short, medium and long-term measures in place to prepare Namibians against natural disasters. "It is possible that between the period of assessment and now, the situation might have changed for the worse," he cautioned.

The president also reiterated that the government cannot buy fodder for three million livestock, therefore a grazing subsidy will be introduced. "I appeal to farmers and individuals who have grazing to assist their fellow citizens," he urged and directed that water should be made available as a matter of urgency in areas where grazing is still available. "Consideration should also be given for the culling of game by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism before animals are lost due to drought," Pohamba advised.

He said the strengthening and expansion of safety net programmes such as the school feeding programme, food for work and cash for work programmes should be considered. "Other measures aimed at addressing the plight of our citizens, especially our farmers, will be announced once consultations have been made with stakeholders." Pohamba said the drought has resulted in land disputes in some parts of the country. "This must be avoided at all costs," he warned.

He further urged Namibians to attend to the plight of fellow citizens without regard to political, tribal, ethnic, racial, gender or religious background. He also issued a stern warning against using the drought to cash in, advising Namibians to report cases of corruption during the procurement and distribution of drought relief aid. He also warned against the privatisation of state assets such as fencing off communal boreholes.

The president further called for assistance from the international community, saying assistance in any form will be highly appreciated.