Hunger, malnutrition, disease grow: Unicef

More than 778 000 people are either severely or moderately food insecure in northern Namibia, says the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef).

This figure includes an estimated 109 000 children under the age of five who are at risk of acute malnutrition.

“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. Livestock and crops have perished as many households sell their assets and skip meals,” Unicef says.

Neighbouring Angola is no exception, as an estimated 1.5 million people in southern Angola are currently food insecure.

Unicef therefore seeks 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 appeals for USD7.4m (about N$74m) to fund its response in Namibia.

About USD14.3m (about N$143m) 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 grows, according to Unicef.

The fund’s regional director for eastern and southern Africa, Steven Allen has been quoted as saying climate change and environmental pressure make 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 stresses, expressing concern over local reports from the field, which indicate, 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.

As wells and boreholes dry up, the lack of food and access to water are yet to become major challenges. In Namibia, 41% of schools have no access to water supply.

In Angola, reduced rainfall has resulted in a gradual decline of the ground water table and many rivers are progressively drying out; an estimated 40% to 50% of water points no longer function.

“Unicef’s 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 children’s access to education, through coordinated engagement with local and international partners,” it adds.
- nampa