Drought hits Namibia’s poor hardest

International response to the pleas for aid aimed at Namibia’s drought-stricken communities have fallen short

The people most affected by Namibia’s drought are in the northern rural areas, which are also the most impoverished.

Ironically it’s also where the traditional culture of the Ovahimba and Herero tribes appears richest. The streets of Opuwa in Kunene Province are full of women in their stunning traditional dress.

But the Ovahimba’s pastoral way of life is under strain. Their normal diet of meat and milk has been replaced by maize, when they are lucky enough to receive food aid.

UNICEF, the Red Cross and the Council of Churches have launched an appeal but the response from the international community has been disappointing

UNICEF’s Deputy Representative Marcus Bett believes that’s because Namibia is considered a middle income country. But he says “some pockets are rich, particularly with the mining sector but what it hides is huge inequality. It’s also naturally dry, so convincing people there’s a drought is a challenge.”

Yet a million people have registered with the government for assistance.

The Director of Disaster Risk Management Japhet Iitenge says Namibia would be very grateful for help “anything which might come our way we’d be willing to accept”.

He said the government is distributing a second wave of food relief now, including beans and tinned fish for extra nutrition

“Our first priority is to save lives by providing food and water, then water for livestock and by buying cattle from struggling herders. We’re also providing seeds and drilling extra bore holes.” Although just as people and their animals are going thirsty so is the wildlife. We passed a borehole tap that had been torn apart by a herd of elephants.

At Engela Hospital most of the babies being admitted into the Severely Malnourished ward are from Angola. They come in search of better healthcare services then they can get at home.

Mr Iitenge told me “the movement of people is the way we live, it [the border] is just a line, so we share services and resources like grazing, it’s a normal way of doing thing. The drought doesn’t stop at the line.”

If only the international community was so neighbourly.

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