WINDHOEK – The Namibia Red Cross Society (NRCS) has reaffirmed its commitment to mobilising the power of humanity to help Namibians affected by the drought.
“Heavy rains in December last year and at the beginning of this year, along with rising river levels in the Zambezi River catchment area caused extensive flooding in the Zambezi Region, inundating homes, infrastructure and crop fields. But with the help of the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC) we were able to provide assistance to 2 500 families, translating into 11 000 beneficiaries,” NRCS Board Chairperson Professor Katjavivi said at the Namibia Red Cross Society’s National Board meeting yesterday.
He said as a voluntary aid organization officially recognized by the Government of the Republic of Namibia as an auxiliary to their humanitarian efforts, the NRCS was involved in the official assessments of both the floods and drought that is currently ravaging the country.
“I am proud of our volunteers, who managed relocation camps, provided training in safe water practices and prevention of diseases like HIV, malaria and TB, and distributed emergency items to those affected by the floods,” he said. This year, the NRCS members and volunteers delivered services, emergency relief and education, and conducted awareness activities for more than 82 000 vulnerable Namibians.
However, for the past months the society had to move to the other end of the spectrum, highlighting the drought disaster that has struck the nation.
In April, the society carried out an assessment on the drought situation in all 13 regions with the government, the United Nations and non-government organisations where it found that over 400 000 people have been struggling to find food, suffering from malnutrition and selling their assets just to survive.
“I must say there have been overwhelming local and international responses in terms of logistical and financial support. Long-term change is possible when Namibians support and help each other to make their communities stronger and more resilient to disasters like these. So we have been overjoyed to see Namibians coming out in force to support the Red Cross. The donations of many generous people have made it possible for our volunteers and members to reach out with compassion to embrace those made vulnerable by the drought,” he stated.
The NRCS has since mid-July established nine soup kitchens in Opuwo, Khorixas, Rundu, Omega, Elakalapwa and Eenhana, with 22 000 hot meals served by Red Cross volunteers for the most vulnerable children, mothers and elderly. Children weak from malnutrition are now ably walking, and 21 000 people now have access to clean water for drinking and cooking through the distribution of water purification tablets.
The NRCS has 170 volunteers trained to conduct malnutrition checks, water and sanitation activities and soup kitchen management.
Over the coming year, Katjavivi says the society will continue to work with such communities, helping them with long-term recovery and to prepare for future droughts by providing drought-tolerant seeds, and tools, and building the capacity and resilience of those affected to respond to droughts.
By Tonateni Shidhudhu