Charity Needs N$35-m

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By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK The food assistance programme that distributes food to orphans and vulnerable children of the six northern regions still needs about N$35 million to give out rations to the beneficiaries until the programme ends. The Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare programme, which is supported by the World Food Programme, was launched in April 2006 to provide food to OVC for two years until all the identified 111 000 children in the six northern regions are enrolled with the government’s grant system. The programme was interrupted in mid-December to January when the beneficiaries did not receive any rations because of a shortage of funds with which to purchase the foodstuffs. The programme has since resumed but beneficiaries are only receiving maize-meal. The full rations would comprise maize-meal, a corn-soya blend, vegetable oil and beans, which can now only be provided if there are enough funds. This week, Spain donated N$2.8 million to the WFP to support the programme, which WFP Country Director, John Prout, said would be used to purchase maize-meal in Namibia. He said in a press release on Monday: “This very generous contribution from the Spanish government will help secure our food supplies to the children for the next couple of months.” He said yesterday the programme has enough money to give out partial rations until around May or June, when hopefully the programme will attract additional funding. The programme is based on the chronic under-nutrition situation in the country, where 24 percent of children under the age of five are chronically undernourished, while there is a general under-nutrition rate of 20 percent. With weakened family structures due to the HIV and AIDS pandemic, children are also becoming weaker and weaker. Over 110 000 orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) are from the northern and northeastern regions, namely Omusati, Ohangwena, Oshikoto, Oshana, Kavango and Caprivi, which have been identified as the hardest hit because they have the highest prevalence rates and as a result a high number of OVC. Spain’s Ambassador to Namibia, Victoria Scola Pliego, said her government was aware of the positive results accomplished so far through the programme. She added that the donation was in line with the announcement that Spain would increase the share of its ODA channeled through the UN System. By the end of 2006, over 90 000 children had been registered witho the programme, which is being implemented at regional level by the Catholic AIDS Action, Namibian Red Cross Society and ELCIN Aids Action. Over 56ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ 000 children have been receiving grants since January this year.