By Surihe Gaomas WINDHOEK Food security for the thousands of Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC) is once again on the cards of the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare and the global charity the World Food Programme (WFP). Recently the ministry together with WFP announced the start of a Community Household Surveillance Survey (CHSS) aimed at assessing the food security and livelihoods of OVC in Namibia’s northern regions. With the attention now being focussed on the plight of OVC in the northern part of the country the Permanent Secretary of the ministry Sirkka Ausiku stated in a recent press release that the welfare of disadvantaged children is a top priority. “The ministry recognizes the need to assess and monitor the household food security levels of these vulnerable children,” explained Ausiku. The survey will be undertaken by six WFP teams, one for each of the six northern regions, namely Ohangwena, Omusati, Oshana, Oshikoto, Kavango and Caprivi. It is reported that the teams will be collecting information through interviews and basic measurements. In the three regions of Omusati, Oshana and Oshikoto, which are part of the six regions in which the 111 000 OVC will receive food assistance, one in every 10 children relies on one parent. 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. The latest survey is viewed as an integral part of the monitoring and evaluation efforts and has already been carried out successfully in six Southern African countries. “The survey will help measure the improvements in their health and livelihoods as a result of the food assistance they are receiving now,” stated John Prout, WFP Country Director and Representative in Namibia. Feeding the OVC is however not a new priority for both concerned parties as both the ministry and WFP started the OVC feeding programme in April this year. This initiative is expected to run for approximately two years. Since that time the programme has benefited 30 327 OVC and the WFP will continue providing food assistance to these children until they can be absorbed into the Government’s Safety Net Scheme or Grant Payment Scheme. In light of this Ausiku welcomes the global food programme’s assistance in this regard. “Namibia’s orphans and vulnerable children are an important part of the country’s future and we must do everything possible to ensure their well-being. We are grateful to WFP for helping the Government assist these hungry children,” she stated. In April this year, Minister of Gender Equality and Child Welfare Marlene Mungunda said that although Namibia has good infrastructure that ensures good food delivery to the supermarkets, the increasing commodity prices have left people unable to buy foodstuffs. Burdened by the HIV/AIDS pandemic, which remains a national challenge, most families are unable to cope because of the crumbling support systems. She said most Namibians were poor and vulnerable and were affected mostly by food insecurity. The country has a soaring number of orphans and vulnerable children, who among other things need food, fees to go to school, emotional and psychosocial support. As a way of alleviating one of the triple threats, the WFP has provided over N$94 million for the provision of food assistance to the OVC in the country’s six northern regions. The latest survey is expected to end on July 31, after which the results will be made available in late September. Furthermore, follow-up surveys are planned at the end of the programme to determine the impact of the food assistance programme at household levels compared to the beginning of the programme.