Two Big Names to Tackle Poverty

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By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK Namibia has appointed two Global Call to Action Against Poverty (GCAP) ambassadors with the brief to spearhead the anti-poverty campaign. Yesterday, the Namibia Non-Governmental Organization Forum (Nangof) announced the appointment of Women’s Action for Development (WAD) Executive Director Veronica de Klerk and Bishop Zephania Kameeta as GCAP ambassadors. Chairperson of Nangof, Norman Tjombe, described poverty as a scandal that should be dealt with as a matter of national urgency. In her acceptance remarks, De Klerk acknowledged poverty as a problem that could be tackled. She however believes that the reduction of poverty is not a “quick fix”. “I see my role as GCAP ambassador as a powerful opportunity to intensify our efforts to eradicate extreme poverty and to strive towards the achievement of the UN Millennium Development Goals on a wider platform,” she said. With 12 years experience of working with the poor in the country, De Klerk said that while the causes of poverty in Namibia are diverse, there is a need for all Namibians to join hands to lift the human spirit out of the pit in which it has lost initiative and motivation. Zephania Kameeta equally accepted the appointment with reverence, adding that he will continue to be the voice of the voiceless. Poverty in Namibia is still a big problem that calls for multiple strategies. “As long as a single child is dying of malnutrition in Namibia, the fight for the struggle is not over,” said the Bishop. It is his hope that the campaign will not be of words only but of action as well. Namibia is a beautiful country with considerable natural and human resources. On behalf of the civil society, Peter Lenhardt from the !Nara Training Centre said that the country has a vibrant and growing tourism sector that provides the economic base of the nation. Sadly, the country is classed as lower middle-income with the majority of people subsisting in poverty. This situation, he says, demands a raising of the capacity and earnings of the poor and making significant inroads in sharing more equably the resources with, and for the benefit of, the very poor. Locally, 40 per cent of Namibians live below the income poverty line, 79 per cent of rural households do not have proper sanitation, 78 per cent of rural households have no access to electricity, 31 percent of the urban population is unemployed, almost 80 per cent of the rural population and 40 per cent of the urban population have no access to banking services, while 20 per cent of the rural population do not have access to safe drinking water, among others. Meanwhile, the Council of Churches in Namibia (CCN) held a special prayer meeting yesterday to mark the ‘World Day to Overcome Extreme Poverty’. According to the General Secretary of the Council of Churches in Namibia (CCN), Phillip Strydom, the World Council of Churches has identified poverty as a scandal, challenging the churches into decisive action. October 17th is commemorated worldwide by the United Nations as the ‘World Day to Overcome Extreme Poverty’. Strydom says the United Nations has selected the day in honour of the victims of extreme poverty. This Saturday, thousands of Namibians are expected to gather at the Sam Nujoma Stadium in Katutura to show their support for extreme poverty eradication in the country. Tjombe explained that GCAP calls on the governments of poor and rich countries to keep their promise to meet and exceed the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Millions across the globe, including Namibia, have shown the breadth of public support on this issue with citizens, policy makers, faith leaders, workers, women, children, youth and many more – all standing together in their opposition to poverty and inequality. “By acting together in this simple but powerful way, we aim to show the size and strength of public support for ending extreme poverty and meeting and exceeding the MDGs. In the last ten years, extreme poverty has killed more people than all of the wars of the 20th century combined,” said Tjombe. In a recent interview with the Director General of the National Planning Commission, Helmut Angula, he revealed that Namibia might achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of reducing poverty by half before 2015. He expressed the hope that the UN goal of reducing poverty in Namibia would be achieved even before the anticipated timeframe. He added that the country’s passion for reducing poverty stems from the country’s involvement in presiding over the architects that crafted the said MDGs in 2000, when the country served as the President of the United Nations General Assembly during the Millennium Summit in New York. At independence, the country inherited rampant poverty, given the racial and discriminatory laws that led to the majority of black people living in poverty. However, new policies aimed at tackling these inequalities were put in place. “The MDG target of reducing poverty will be reached even before that date – 2015,” he said. The Namibian Household Income and Expenditure Survey of 1993/4 revealed that 38% of the Namibian population lived in poverty while nine percent survived in extreme poverty. Angula reassured that the budget focuses on fighting poverty and the government would continue investing money in economic activities aimed at fighting this social problem.