By Surihe Gaomas WINDHOEK Due to the devastating impact of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, hundreds of Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC) in Namibia are severely malnourished. The latest statistics indicate that about 24 percent of children under five years are chronically malnourished and 9 percent acutely malnourished. Citing this as a cause of grave concern, World Food Programme (WFP) Representative Eric Kenefick, when presenting the findings of the Community Household Surveillance survey last Thursday, said that such a situation cannot be left unaddressed. He noted that this trend further paints the negative picture of huge social disparities in the country. “Such levels of under-nutrition are unacceptable and highlight the continuing inequalities between the haves and the have nots,” said Kenefick, adding that the chronic hunger situation needs immediate attention. What makes matters worse is that the chronic under-nutrition in Namibia is being seriously exacerbated by the emerging tragedy of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. With a prevalence rate of about 20 percent, Namibia still ranks among the worst affected countries in the world. “In ever-increasing numbers, children are left in the care of single parents, elder siblings, grandparents or other caregivers, who themselves are barely able to survive,” added Kenefick. It is known that increasingly, the burden of care is placed on the shoulders of women, children and the elderly. It is against this background that the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare and United Nation’s World Food Programme signed a Memorandum of Understanding for food assistance to OVC on April 24 this year. At the same time, the two partners felt the need to conduct a Community Household Survey in the six most affected regions of the country, namely: Oshana, Ohangwena, Omusati, Oshikoto, Kavango and Caprivi. The WFP also established its country office in Namibia with the main aim of helping government strengthen its support and care for the hundreds of vulnerable children. Through the partnership, WFP aims to provide food assistance to 111ÃƒÆ’Ã†’Ãƒâ€ ‘ÃƒÆ’ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒ…ÃƒÆ’Ã†”Ã…Â¡ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â 000 children in the six northern regions from April 2006 to December next year. Speaking at the launch of the Community Household Surveillance survey last week, WFP’s Country Director for Namibia, John Prout, said the survey confirms that the partnership between WFO and Government is already making a positive difference on these children. “For example, just over three-quarters of households hosting OVC who received food assistance are consuming an adequate diet, compared with only 60 percent of these non-beneficiary households,” explained Prout. He is of the opinion that, although it will take time for government to bring all OVC under the Grant System, WFP will continue helping them with the food needs of the children. The Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare is currently providing grants to 53ÃƒÆ’Ã†’Ãƒâ€ ‘ÃƒÆ’ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒ…ÃƒÆ’Ã†”Ã…Â¡ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â 929 children throughout the country. Thus the Safety Net System in the country has been cited as a remarkable achievement. Numbers for giving such welfare grants to OVC were less than 10ÃƒÆ’Ã†’Ãƒâ€ ‘ÃƒÆ’ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒ…ÃƒÆ’Ã†”Ã…Â¡ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â 000 two years ago to over 50ÃƒÆ’Ã†’Ãƒâ€ ‘ÃƒÆ’ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒ…ÃƒÆ’Ã†”Ã…Â¡ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â 000 today. Both the line Ministry and WFP are working with other stakeholders to effectively deliver food to all needy children in the country. These included Catholic Aids Action (CAA), the Namibian Red Cross Society, Regional Councils and ELCIN Aids Action.
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