By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK The distribution of food rations to orphans and other vulnerable children (OVC) from the World Food Programme (WFP) through the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare started several weeks ago. The food aid is being distributed to needy children following the signing of a memorandum of understanding between WFP and the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare early in April. In an interview with New Era, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare, Sirkka Ausiku said the food distributions started in the drought-affected regions of Omusati, Ohangwena, Oshana, Oshikoto, Kavango and Caprivi. “In mid April, we distributed 327 metric tonnes of food to Kavango. The actual distribution started on April 26 and extended to the other five regions in May. Distributions are planned to continue until December 2007,” stated Ausiku who is also the overall coordinator of the programme. The food being distributed is in the form of maize-meal, pasta, vegetable oil and soya beans. The Caprivi region would by the end of this programme have received 1 771 metric tons of food, Kavango 4 806 metric tons, Oshikoto 3 794 metric tons, Ohangwena 5 818 metric tons, Oshana 3 541 metric tons and Omusati 5 565 metric tons. “The basic aim is to provide temporary relief for chronically food insecure OVC who are currently not benefiting from government grants,” she said. Currently, there about 111 000 OVC in these regions who are to receive the food assistance. In the Omusati, Oshana and Oshikoto, one in every 10 children has only one parent. According to Ausiku, registration of OVC across the country is ongoing. This is done with the aim of including all the children falling under this category in the government grant payment system. As at the end of March, 45 340 children were registered to receive the welfare grants. Two years ago, the figure stood at 7 000 children “Registration is ongoing. We want to put all OVC on this programme especially those from these six regions. For some reason, these places were neglected,” she added. This is the second appeal for food assistance that the government has made to the WFP. The ministry will coordinate the distribution of food to the Oshikoto, Ohangwena, Omusati, Oshana, Kavango and Caprivi regions until the end of next year when it would be able to phase in as many OVC as possible into the grant payment system. Three local NGOs were contracted to distribute the food on behalf of the ministry. The Catholic AIDS Action was contracted in Ohang-wena; the Namibia Red Cross Society was contracted in Caprivi, while ELCIN and the Catholic AIDS Action would serve Omusati, Oshana and Kavango regions. With the launch of the programme in April 2006, Namibia has been integrated into the WFP’s regional operations for Southern Africa, which provides food assistance to populations vulnerable to food insecurity and the impact of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Although Namibia’s economy is performing well compared to some countries in the Southern Africa region, the increasing commodity prices have left people unable to buy foodstuffs, minister of Gender Equality and Child Welfare, Marlene Mungunda, said at the launch of the programme. She added that most Namibians were poor, vulnerable and were affected mostly by food insecurity. The country has a soaring number of orphans and vulnerable children, who among others need food, fees to go to school, and emotional and psychosocial support. As a way of alleviating one of the triple threats, the United Nations World Food Pro-gramme has provided over N$94 million for the provision of food assistance to the OVC in six regions in the country. The WFP re-established a country office in Namibia last year to strengthen support for OVC by designing an intervention that will help alleviate chronic hunger and under nutrition. Statistics indicate that 24 percent of children under five are chronically malnourished, while some 9 percent are acutely malnourished.
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