10 April 2014

Namibia: Food rations save lives in Namibia

press release

As Namibia's drought has persisted over the last year, Manner Tjambiru has endured along with it. The 89-year-old mother of seven, and grandmother of 10 has survived, although all of her cattle have died.

"The drought has created immense problems here," she explains. "Our villages and most of our livestock have died. We have no small livestock left because, as you can see, there is no grass for the cattle to feed on."

In the Kunene region of northern Namibia, where Manner is from, 33 per cent of the population is food insecure. Erratic rainfall in January last year meant many crops failed, and livestock died as their grazing areas shrank. As the year unfolded, the hot, dry weather intensified, and people in the area became desperate. As boreholes dried up, families resorted to using and drinking contaminated water which was shared by their animals. Cattle farmers started traveling long distances to find sufficient grazing land.

The drought has been catastrophic for Namibia since the government declared a national emergency in May 2013, just months after the main harvest season. Farmers have been used to Namibia's semi-arid conditions for generations, but a total lack of rain over the last year has left them disheartened. At a time when people expected to be busy storing food for the dry season, Namibians were facing their worst drought in 30 years. Thirty per cent of families affected by drought have enough food for only one meal a day and 109,000 children under the age of five are at risk of severe malnutrition.

The Namibia Red Cross Society has been assisting those affected by the drought since July of last year, with cash transfers of 29 US dollars a month to enable them to buy food rations. Over 1,200 households have now been reached through cash transfers, supporting them through the months they have watched their yearly harvest wither away.

However, Orume village, where Manner is from, is isolated. Its remoteness makes the price of food in the area relatively high compared to other villages, largely due to the high transport cost.

Instead of cash transfers, Namibia Red Cross Society decided to help Manner and her neighbours by providing 29 US dollars' worth of food rations.

"The food rations that I received have made a great impact on my diet and we are able to have a meal on the table that we can share as a family," says Manner. "I would like to express my greatest appreciation to the Namibian Red Cross Society for the assistance they have brought to our community."

The Namibia Red Cross Society and the International Federation of Red Cross and Crescent Societies (IFRC) emergency appeal for the drought is due to end in July this year, a worrying thought for Manner. "Now I'm very much concerned about the programme ending as we have not received enough rain for our livestock to recover."

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