Close to 730 000 of Namibia’s rural population are expected to be food insecure by early next year, up by more than 150 000 from the current 578 000 inhabitants who rely on food aid in the 2015/16 financial year.
According to the latest SADC Vulnerability Assessment Committee Results, 57 percent of Namibia’s rural population of 1.3 million is currently food insecure.
The report noted that 1.66 million tonnes of maize will be required for immediate food assistance in the SADC region over the next few months, up until March 2017.
The vulnerability assessment and analysis indicate the current drought has impacted not only on food security, but also on other sectors such as water, health and nutrition, and livestock, amongst others.
Meanwhile, the government has implemented interim food assistance to 600 000 beneficiaries between May and July 2016, while a comprehensive drought relief programme started from August 2016 and will last until March 2017.
Interventions from government to be implemented include livestock marketing incentives, subsidies for ploughing services, free seeds distribution, rehabilitation of boreholes and laying of water pipelines.
The report says that in many countries, including Namibia, it will be necessary to support affected communities to recover their eroded production capacity through provision of emergency seeds, inputs and other appropriate support for next season’s crops.
“Livestock needs to be protected through provision of emergency feed, rehabilitation of watering points and emergency vaccinations against trans-boundary diseases such as foot-and-mouth. There is a need to scale up use of climate-smart approaches, including water harvesting, among high-risk farming households,” the report states.
According to the assessment, due to the El Niño-induced drought affecting the region, the worst in 35 years, as well as floods, an estimated 40 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance.
Out of this, 23 million require immediate humanitarian assistance.
In response to this, the Southern African Development Community has appealed for U$2.4 billion (N$36 billion) to support the humanitarian needs of the affected population in some countries.
The appeal is in support of ongoing planned efforts by SADC member states and covers all relevant sectors in an effort to enable a holistic approach to the drought, addressing immediate multi-sectoral humanitarian needs as well as referencing longer term developmental and resilience-building requirements.
SADC has formally requested the international community to provide assistance to affected member states with gaps in their humanitarian response.
These are Namibia, Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
An estimated 14 percent of the SADC population is food insecure, according to the Vulnerability Assessment Results released at the 10th Meeting of the Regional Vulnerability Assessment and Analysis (RVAA).
Nearly 2.7 million children are currently suffering from severe acute malnutrition (SAM) in the region.
In some countries such as Malawi, it is expected that food insecurity, coupled with reductions in safe drinking water and sanitation, will result in increases in communicable diseases, and changes in child care practices will result in an increased number of children in need of support.
The severe drought conditions have resulted in widespread crop failure, poor harvests and loss of livelihoods. Cereal harvest assessments indicate nearly a 9.3 million-tonne regional shortfall in production.
Namibia is expected to import some 2000 000 tonnes of cereals up to March next year.
South Africa, usually the main producer of maize in the region, is facing a 1.6-million tonne deficit. Livestock, which is a key source of livelihoods for many communities, have not been spared. More than 643 000 drought-related livestock deaths have been reported in Namibia, Botswana, Swaziland, South Africa and Zimbabwe due to a lack of pasture, lack of water and disease outbreaks.
Food and nutrition security and strengthening livelihoods are the greatest need. Poor feeding practices resulting from lack of food will also further compromise people’s immune system and increase the risk of infection due to drinking water scarcity as well as increases in vector-borne disease.
Water sources and reservoirs are severely depleted, forcing communities and their livestock to share the same unsafe sources and so increase the risk of disease. The importance of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) in the response is critical to all sectors and will aim at ensuring affected populations’ access to potable water, sanitation and improved hygiene in its own right; as well as providing critical support to other sectors’ response activities i.e. ensuring adequate WASH services for nutrition; therapeutic feeding in health centres and communities, institutions, and school-feeding programmes in the education sector.
The majority of southern African countries face a negative economic outlook, mainly due to falling commodity prices and weakening currencies, and this is being compounded by the effects of the El Niño drought.
This means that development funding will have to be redirected towards emergency relief efforts, which will further affect economic growth.
Tourism, an important source of revenue, can also be expected to decrease due to water scarcity and impact on wildlife.
The SADC Council of Ministers at its meeting of March 2016 declared a regional drought disaster and issued a regional appeal for assistance.
Five countries (Namibia, Lesotho, Malawi, Swaziland and Zimbabwe) have declared drought emergencies. South Africa has declared a drought in all provinces except Gauteng, and Mozambique has declared an institutional red alert.
El Niño-related government preparedness and response plans have been developed or are under development by most countries.