Voice of America (Washington, DC)

Namibia in Grips of Worst Drought in Decades

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is appealing for more than one-and-one-quarter-million dollars to provide emergency assistance to tens of thousands of people affected by the worst drought to hit Namibia in decades.

Namibia is the driest country in sub-Saharan Africa, so drought is not a new phenomenon. But, this year the rainfall throughout Namibia has been erratic and below average.

The International Red Cross Federation estimates 130,000 people are in need of immediate food assistance. About 70 percent of the population depends upon agriculture for its livelihood. When the rains fail, so do the crops and when the crops fail, the livestock die.

Red Cross spokeswoman Jessica Sallabank said the outlook is bleak.

"Apparently in Namibia there is one harvest per year, and the next harvest is due in March," she said. "So we are talking another nine months to go before we will see a rainy season and harvest. Now, the Namibian Red Cross is telling us that the people in their daily work do not have enough in reserve. There is just not enough food to last until the harvest time. They are eating wild berries. Families are surviving on one meal a day."

Sallabank said there also is a shortage of safe drinking water. This means people are forced to drink contaminated water, which poses a health risk.

The Red Cross appeal will help 55,000 of the most affected and vulnerable people over the next 12 months. Among those receiving emergency aid are subsistence farmers, female-headed households, the chronically ill, people living with HIV/AIDS and the elderly.

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