The Namibian (Windhoek)

Namibia: Child Poverty Rife in Namibia

A SHOCKING report indicates that more than 30 percent of Namibia's children live in poverty, more so than the general population, of whom 28,7 percent are considered poor.

A child-focused analysis of the Namibia Household Income and Expenditure Survey (NHIES) of 2009/10, states that although the 2003/4 survey showed that 43,5 percent of children live in poverty, child poverty remains widespread and needs to be addressed with urgency.

Rural communities are more affected by poverty than those in towns, with the most vulnerable people found in the Caprivi and Kavango regions. The Ohangwena Region has the most children vulnerable to poverty. Least affected are the Erongo and Khomas regions.

Poor children tend to grow up in large families or in families with young children, or with a female caregiver with only primary education or less, or in households where there is no one with gainful employment.

However, the majority of poor children live in households in which one adult is working and where female caregivers have completed secondary education.

Unicef Namibia says the impact of poverty on children is long term since they are vulnerable to a higher risk of low birth weight and child mortality, stunting and poor education outcomes.

The child poverty in Namibia report sponsored by Unicef Namibia proposes that social grants should play an important role in the provision of social protection, although such social grants are not designed as poverty reduction mechanisms.

The NHIES 2003/04 report showed that overall, 18,2 percent of children live in households where an adult receives an old-age pension; 22,1 per cent of poor children (or 146 189 children) are in households where someone receives a pension.

Close to 10 percent of children (77 475 children) live in households that receive foster-care grants.

In December 2009, 110 639 people received child maintenance and foster-care grants.

It is said that old-age pensions are the most effective social grant, reducing child poverty by 4,8 percent. Child welfare grants are considered less effective, reducing child poverty by only 1,5 percent because of its selective coverage.

The report says if every poor child received a grant, child poverty rates would drop dramatically from 34 percent to 13 percent, while extreme child poverty would drop from 18 percent to three percent.

It concludes that it is possible to reduce child poverty decisively and effectively, and that it is indeed possible that every child in Namibia could have a chance to grow up free from the shackles of poverty and develop to their full potential.

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