Weather Office Wants to Grow

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By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK- Sixteen years after inheriting a basic infrastructure and an inadequate staff establishment, the Namibia Meteorological Office has hardly seen its situation improve. Since 2003 when the institution expanded its office operating complex, other problems such as a lack of countrywide regional offices as well as insufficient staff members remain unsolved. On the sidelines of the celebrations of the World Meteorological Day yesterday, Deputy Director of the Namibia Meteorological Services Frans Uirab told New Era that there is a great need to improve the current infrastructure, especially the extension of the meteorological station network to all the regions. The weather bureau has in the past years expanded its offices to areas such the Caprivi, Kunene, Hardap and Karas. Plans to open offices in all the thirteen regions of the country are underway but operations would heavily depend on the availability of resources. Uirab could not provide figures in terms of funds needed for such an exercise. The setup of weather stations in all the regions and the setup of surface and upper air weather observing systems such as satellites and weather radar will moreover enable the Meteorological Office to give more accurate and timely weather warnings, said the Under Secretary in the Ministry of Works, Transport and Communication Kenapeta Kauaria. Kauaria added that the challenges have unavoidably affected the office’s delivery of fast and efficient services. “After independence, we only managed to get this infrastructure (current office complex) which was completed in 2003. ” He says there is a great need to further spread to other parts of the country in order to continue providing user-focused products and services to the public. “A radar weather system will enable us to issue severe weather warnings well in advance to give people and emergency units sufficient time to evacuate areas that are likely to be flooded or affected,” – such as in the recent floods in the Hardap Region that left many people homeless and most businesses paralyzed with financial damages estimated at N$80 million. Decentralization of services to all the regions would also make it easier to integrate the knowledge of weather and climate in the relevant undertakings. At present, the weather office responds to the needs of aviation, agriculture, health, construction and other sectors of the national economy. As an industry that is complex in nature, training of Namibians in the various fields of meteorology to ensure sustainability of services remains crucial. The office today has 52 staff members including those scattered in some parts of the country. In essence, there were supposed to be 150 staff members but only 52 are employed. According to Uirab, there is a great need to increase the current 25 to 80 staff members in the weather forecasting section. “It is very difficult to find staff because there is no school in Namibia that can train staff with required qualifications.” Through the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) to which the Namibian Met office is an affiliate, two Namibians have been sponsored to study in Kenya. Future plans are to sponsor Grade 12 school-leavers for a course in this field, Uirab stated. In the same way, Kauaria indicated that the modernization of the meteorological service and equipping the human resources with the skills, knowledge and competencies they need are very high on the priority list. “To this effect, we have proposals to strengthen the existing station network and to train more Namibians in meteorology,” he assured. Though the weather bureau is confronted with such a situation, positive contributions have also been made at the national, regional and international level. According to Kauaria, the office has contributed to a large extent to the activities of the Emergency Management Unit, Roll Back Malaria Committee, National Climate Change Committee, and National Early Warning and Food Security Unit. Meanwhile, this year’s World Meteorological Day was celebrated under the theme ‘Preventing and Mitigating Natural Disasters’.