Thirty children under the age of five have died of hunger in the Hardap Region over the past two and a half years.
These statistics were released by the Health Director in the Hardap Region, Christencia Thataone, during a meeting on food security and malnutrition at Mariental on Thursday.
From January to December 2010, five children died at Mariental, four at Rehoboth and one in the Aranos district due to malnutrition. From January to December 2011, nine deaths due to under-nourishment were recorded at Mariental, six at Rehoboth and one at Aranos.
This year from January to April, two children died of malnutrition in Mariental, and two in Rehoboth. Thataone said some root causes of malnutrition are improper weaning practices, poverty, lack of food in families as well as lack of knowledge of the nutritional value of food fed to infants.
The Health Director said parents should make sure their children are fed nutritious food, such as porridge with milk, sugar and fat. "I am not saying go buy expensive food, but just feed the children the food you have, as long as you prepare it in a way that the children can get more nutrients," she advised.
Thataone said the Ministry of Health and Social Services is still fighting malnutrition by admitting and feeding underweight children in hospitals until they get better. However, this effort seems not to be working, as most of these children go hungry again after leaving the hospital and return in the same shape.
"Malnutrition causes the deaths of children and this will affect our economic growth, because most of our young children die young, and the country will only be left with elderly people who cannot work. So, let's fight food insecurity," she urged.
Hardap Governor, Katrina Hanse-Himarwa said she is worried about the state of food insecurity in the region, and called on all residents to act immediately to solve this problem.
"I am a worried governor. I spend sleepless nights due to the fact that people die because there is no food. I wonder if the councillors and other officials in Government offices here are also worried like me," she said at the meeting.
The Hardap and Karas regions face high food insecurity, and at least one person, mostly children, die of hunger in these regions every year. Hanse-Himarwa instructed all residents to start backyard gardens to grow vegetables and fruit.
The governor said landlessness should not be an excuse for people to sit and wait for Government to give them food aid, and that people should start cultivating the available land in their yards.
"Everyone, ask yourself today why you are hungry, and decide not to wait for any help, but to utilise the small plots behind your house, farm and Government office, and plant something to eat," she advised.
Poultry farming is another project residents were told to get involved in.
"We must start producing our own food. We can and we will, because our parents used to produce food through gardening and farming, and raised us healthily," Hanse-Himarwa stressed.