By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK Though it is projected that Namibia will have a staggering 250 000 orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) by the year 2021, lack of data makes it difficult to meet the needs of affected children. The Deputy Minister of Gender Equality and Child Welfare, Angelika Muharukua, says the ministry finds it difficult to plan and render the necessary support and service to needy children due to lack of data. Countrywide, there are already over 100 000 orphans and vulnerable children who are under the age of 15 years. The current number of orphans, the deputy minister reiterated, is expected to rise to a shocking 250 000 within the next 15 years. She says, “This is more than 10 percent of the Namibian population threatened by poverty, hunger and abuse. This is unacceptable.” Though the ministry is currently busy registering all OVC across the country, given the present situation, not all these children will have their needs for adult-care, food, love and support satisfied. The ministry, Muharukua added, will not leave these children to their own devices. So far, an OVC Permanent Task Force Team that looks on the legal framework has been established. The ministry further intends to prepare a census to better understand the needs of OVC in the country. While appealing to both private and public sectors to put their concerted efforts together in order to better the situation of children in the country, the deputy minister hailed Project HOPE for the initiative to carry out a survey in two northern-based regions (Omusati and Oshana) looking into the current status of these children. Based on the findings of the OVC Baseline Survey Report 2006, the condition of OVCs in the Omusati and Oshana northern regions is improving. Although most OVC could be living under unbearable conditions in some parts of the country, the plight of these children compared to other parts of the country has improved. “The plight of the orphans and other vulnerable children should be seen by all as a community issue, and not as an issue that is left in the hands of the government or of the few welfare organisations in Namibia,” said Muharukua. According to the report, at least 96 percent of the 285 OVC interviewed are in school and have all the necessary materials to enable them to receive education. A few that are not receiving education are due to failure and in some instances lack school fees. The school fees assistance, the report reveals, mainly comes from relatives who are mostly farmers. Compared to OVC on the streets, children in these areas can afford to have three meals a day. Sharing similar sentiments as the deputy minister, Project HOPE Namibia Mission Director Gary Newton says having twice as many children orphaned and vulnerable 15 years from now is simply out of the question. He called for efforts to provide support and care to the many affected children. “Care and support must be expanded carefully and strategically. We must accurately ascertain the needs and monitor and evaluate the extent to which we are efficiently meeting the needs,” he said.
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