The nationwide drought emergency in Namibia, declared by the government in May, came just months after the main harvest season, a time when people are usually busy storing food for the dry season.
Instead, 14 per cent of the population is in need of immediate food assistance in what has been described as the worst drought in 30 years. In the hardest hit regions of northern Namibia, crops have failed, livestock have died and malnutrition is affecting both children and adults.
People are coping by selling their assets. But the market value has dropped dramatically for crops and livestock, which for many, are their only means of income.
Joy Singhal, an operations coordinator for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), says although people are currently managing, that won’t last long.
“People in these areas have struggled with drought over the last couple of years and have coped, particularly by selling their assets such as livestock. But as the magnitude of the drought has increased and their coping abilities have been eroded over time, they don’t have much to keep them going or to help them adapt.”
That means they will now be dependent on humanitarian assistance. “It is crucial that we meet their basic needs to survive on a daily basis and help them with longer-term activities to recover from the shock of the drought,” says Singhal.
The IFRC launched an emergency appeal to support the Namibia Red Cross in providing relief to 55,000 of the most vulnerable and affected people across the northern regions of the country.
The appeal will provide water and sanitation interventions, continue and expand on existing Namibia Red Cross soup kitchens, and promote and support community-based maternal, infant and child nutrition.
An important focus will be on building a community’s preparedness for future droughts by providing drought-tolerant seeds, tools and building the capacity and resilience of those affected to respond to droughts.
But for now, Singhal says the focus is on keeping people alive. “We don’t know how long it will take for people to recover, but it will be a long process. We do, however, know that the sooner we respond the sooner people will recover and the less impact the drought will have on them.” –IFRC