Namibia, 7 August 2013: Namibian villagers grapple with the worst drought in three decades
By Suzanne Beukes
Drought has struck Namibia again – and families are struggling to make do.
OPUWO, Kunene region, Namibia, 7 August 2013 – Kariamakuju Kauta lifts some dry, dusty sand from what was a field of maize and vegetables. She has one week’s supply of maize. She is not sure how she will feed her family after it’s gone.
She and her four grandchildren take shelter from the baking heat of the sun under a covering of wood and sheeting. It is children who are struggling the most to cope with the drought that has swept across this southern African nation and its northern neighbour Angola, she says.
“Children are going to bed hungry. They wake up in the morning, and they are not eating anything. The children are fainting because of hunger.”
Struggling to survive the severe shortage of food and water, people in Namibia's Kunene region have no choice but to wait out the worst drought in three decades.
Worst drought in decades
Namibia is a country prone to droughts, but this one is said to be the worst in three decades. An estimated 778,000 Namibians, a third of the population, are either severely or moderately food insecure. Families are selling assets such as livestock, reducing the number of meals eaten in a day, migrating to cities to find work.
Emergency funds, emergency appeal
Despite the early response, Deputy Director of the Directorate of Disaster Risk Management Hellen Likanda said in a briefing last week that, as the number of affected people increases, it is evident that there will be “a significant funding gap”.
UNICEF has appealed for US$7.4 million to respond to the needs of the estimated 109,000 children under 5 years old at risk of malnutrition. “Women and children are really bearing the brunt of the drought,” said UNICEF Namibia Representative Micaela Marques de Sousa. “So, in addition to supporting the government and key partners like the Namibian Red Cross, we are focusing on making sure communities have access to water, sanitation and hygiene facilities, that communities are educated about nutrition and early infant feeding and that school attendance is being monitored.”
Focus on child nutrition
In the Ovahimba village of Omawangete, Julita Hamukuaja checks the circumference of 3-year-old Kaveku’s upper arm, a measurement used as part of malnutrition screening. Ms. Hamukuaja is a health extension worker who has been working in this village since 2012. She has seen first-hand the slow slide into hunger these families have endured. Ovahimba children generally enjoy a protein-rich diet of milk and meat. Now, they are eating a watery maize porridge, often only once a day.
The situation is expected to worsen with the dry season, which is predicted to last until December. During this time, Ms. Hamukuaja’s role will become even more critical to ensure that children who show signs of malnutrition receive the treatment they need – and that children with severe cases of malnutrition are referred to health centres in time.
Waiting out the drought
Kamuhambiya says she will wait out the drought. They usually do. But, this is the second consecutive year of drought in this region. It remains to be seen if she and the other families will have the strength.
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