Hunger comes knocking

18 July 2013
Author  

IT pains one to hear that people who desperately need food aid in the Ohangwena Region simply do not receive sufficient quantities of the promised Government drought relief aid.

Starting another round of the blame game or starting to point fingers at those responsible would not be a productive exercise at this time of dire crisis.

However, what does seem clear is that the wheels of Government move far too slowly in the face of a national emergency of this magnitude.

This remains the case despite the fact that both President Hifikepunye Pohamba and Prime Minister Hage Geingob have issued strict instruction to officials to act urgently to ensure that food and other forms of drought relief reaches those in need as speedily as possible.

There is no greater assault on human dignity than hunger and no greater violation of fundamental human rights than hunger because it threatens the right to life itself.

Even in relatively good times, food security for large percentage of the Namibian population remains precarious at best.

For us to remain passive bystanders while another human being dies of hunger is just as big a crime as taking that person’s life through an act of violence.

The time has come for us to put all other concerns and political differences aside and single-mindedly rally together behind one cause.

We all have our own personal problems of trying to meet ends meet with ever-increasing housing costs, rent and electricity and transport costs.

However, if we are able to eat at least one wholesome, nutritional meal a day our problems pale in comparison with those who go to bed on an empty stomach.

The hunger and suffering in some parts of the country should be the sole focus of our Government and each of us as individuals.

The problem of hunger is not a new phenomenon in this country and as recently as 2011 as many as 240,000 Namibians needed food assistance in one form or another.

That figure fell slightly to 74,000 last year, but that is still an unacceptably high number of hungry people when you think about it.

Here we are in 2013, and the number of those facing food shortages has once again shot up to an astronomical 331,000 people – or 14 percent of the population due to the lowest rainfall in decades.

We should not only back Government’s efforts to assist those in imminent danger of severe hunger but also commend the work of organisations such as the Namibia Red Cross Society that have launched their own initiatives to deal with the crisis.

We all need to come to the party and think about how we as individuals, organisations and private sector companies can do our bit to help our fellow citizens.

We should dig deep into our pockets for whatever remaining dollar we have, because every cent can help save a life.

Government needs to take urgent steps to overcome the bureaucratic inertia and bottlenecks that prevent food aid from reaching those who need it – whether in Ohangwena or Maltahöhe.

It has already instructed the Namibian Defence Force to mobilise its not inconsiderable resources towards the relief effort.

We are all in this together, and Government cannot do it all alone! This has to be a national effort and we would like to see the private sector take a more proactive role.

The private sector, unlike Government, has mastered the fine art of logistics.

If private companies are in the position where they can offer either expertise, material or logistical support they should not hesitate to volunteer.

For the long-term, we always need to remember that we live in an arid semi-desert country where we should not see drought as an exception but the norm.

We need to find permanent coping mechanisms and strategies to survive our perennial cycle of devastating drought punctuated by periods of pitifully low rainfall.

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WINDHOEK OBSERVER

The Windhoek Observer is an English-language weekly newspaper, published in Namibia by Paragon Investment Holding. It is the country's oldest and largest circulating weekly.

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