Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Urgent food aid needed to save lives in drought-stricken Namibia

Alexander Matheou in a press release from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies:  The headline in Namibia’s national newspaper is dramatic: 38 die of starvation in the first five months of 2013, and it’s just the tip of the iceberg as the drought enters its most bitter period.

Such news would normally stir outcry and action, but here the response has been lukewarm. There are two reasons for this. First, Namibia is a stable, middle income country that lacks the aid sector which would raise red flags in other parts of the continent. Second, while the figure of 38 malnutrition related deaths is horrific, it actually represents a decrease relative to figures from 2010 and 2011. In parts of Namibia, chronic hunger is not uncommon in poor households, even in a normal year.

...But to categorize this drought as a chronic crisis requiring only long-term, poverty reduction interventions would be a mistake that costs lives. The government declared an emergency in May this year for a reason. The drought has – albeit slowly – shattered livelihoods and left people without an ability to meet their basic survival needs.

This becomes evident deep in the pastoralist drylands of north west Namibia, where tribes preserve a way of life that is a global heritage. 

...Food aid is no solution in the long-term. But right now, for the most drought affected communities in the arid of lands of Namibia, that is just what is needed to preserve life and health until the next rains and harvest....

The Kalahari Desert in Namibia, shot by Elmar Thiel, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Germany license

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