Johannesburg/Windhoek/Luanda — As one of the worst droughts in 30 years grips the southern African countries of Angola and Namibia, the threat of hunger, malnutrition, disease and lost livelihoods is growing.
After almost three decades of low seasonal rainfall and a second year of failed rains, more than 778,000 people are either severely or moderately food insecure in northern Namibia. These include an estimated 109,000 children under the age of five at risk of acute malnutrition. An estimated 1.5 million people in southern Angola are now food insecure.
UNICEF is seeking international support for those affected, particularly women and children to avert a nutritional and health crisis in both countries. Together with other humanitarian aid agencies, UNICEF is appealing for US$7.4 million to fund its response in Namibia, and US$14.3 million for Angola to respond in the worst-affected provinces including Cunene, Namibe and Kuando Kubango as well as in the southern parts of Benguela and Huila.
"Climate change and environmental pressure are making life increasingly difficult for the poorest and most marginalized in remote communities, where daily life is already very challenging for children," said Steven Allen, Regional Director for UNICEF Eastern and Southern Africa. "Food and water shortages now increase the likelihood of disease and malnutrition."
"Reports from the field already indicate that children are dropping out of school and are being separated from their parents, a clear sign of the stress and vulnerability families face as they try to cope with the drought."
UNICEF's support to the Governments of Namibia and Angola will focus on the prevention and treatment of malnutrition and disease, provision of water treatment and sanitation, mitigation of child protection risks and support for children's access to education, through coordinated engagement with local and international partners.
Although the emergency is in its early stages, the situation is expected to worsen over the next few months, making it harder for families to cope and survive. Livestock and crops have perished and many households are selling assets and skipping meals. Anecdotal reports show that school attendance has dropped as a result of the drought.
In addition, as wells and boreholes dry up, the lack of food and access to water will become major challenges. In Angola, reduced rainfall has resulted in a gradual decline of the ground water table and many rivers are progressively drying out and an estimated 40-50 per cent of water points are no longer functioning. In Namibia, 41 per cent of schools have no access to a water supply.