Kunene's governor, Joshua Hoebeb, said that the 49,000 bags of maize meal the region had so far received did not match the numbers of people registered for food aid, which was in the 70,000s and increasing on a daily basis.
"We need to provide aid until the first harvest [in March] next year," he told journalists gathered at his offices in Opuwo, "and we don't know where the next shipment of maize is going to come from."
None of the households that IRIN interviewed in Kunene had received food assistance. "The government promised food, but it hasn't come," said Teemuime Mbendura. Her extended family at the homestead is now largely dependent on the 500 Namibian dollars ($50) a month one or two family members receive in old-age pensions.
The men are reluctant to slaughter or sell their cattle to buy food, partly because the meat is fetching significantly less than it would in a normal year, even with the additional 300 Namibian dollars ($30) per cow that the government is offering as an incentive for destocking. Cattle also represent a Himba man's pride and prosperity.
Kapara Mbinge, 35, has returned to the homestead for a funeral, following a three-day journey from a cattle post 140km away. So far, he has lost six animals to the drought and sold two, but he still has a herd of 65. "I don't normally sell them," he told IRIN. "They are my wealth."
The Zemba, another traditional group in the region, depend less on livestock farming and more on cultivating crops, but they are faring no better. Kariamakuju Kauta, 55, estimates that she has enough maize left from this year's meagre harvest to feed her family of 12 for one more week.
The parched soil did not yield any vegetables, and the family's six cattle have all died. "For now, we are eating once a day," she said. "The children are going to bed hungry, and when they wake up, there's nothing to give them."