Windhoek - Namibia’s efforts to quell effects of drought received a major boost on Wednesday when the United States of America donated food aid and material support worth US$7.6 million (N$106 million).
Namibia, like many countries in Southern Africa, is reeling from an El-Nino inflicted drought which has left farmers counting loses as both crops and livestock have been destroyed while the government has confirmed that more than 400 000 families need food subsidies until the next harvesting season.
The donation was funded by the United States President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relieve (PEPFAR) and is in addition to the US$81.4 million in PEPFAR funding committed for the 2020 financial year starting October 1, 2019.
US Ambassador Lisa Johnson made the announcement following a meeting with President Hage Geingob at the State House in advance of his travel to the UN General Assembly in New York where she also emphasised the cordial relations between the two countries in areas of mutual cooperation, including health and provision of support in key areas.
Namibia, Johnson added, was one of the major recipients of US support in Africa, especially in HIV and Aids management as well as project financing in areas that have far reaching implications for its citizens.
“The drought has brought real hardship to Namibia and significantly impacted livelihoods. Many of Namibia’s most vulnerable citizens do not have enough food to eat. I have heard this personally from many people as I have travelled around the country recently, including in Kunene, Omusati, Kavango, and Zambezi,” said Johnson. .
She added that the donation builds on the USAid/OFDA US$100,000 provided in May 2019 to the Namibian Red Cross for water and hygiene assistance for the Kunene region.
This donation will provide US$7.6 million of food assistance consisting of more than 5,000 tonnes of food, provide some of Namibia’s most vulnerable populations in regions hardest hit by the drought with up to six months of food assistance and reach and feed an estimated 110,000 Namibians.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation has raised alarm over the challenge of hepatitis E in Namibia’s informal settlement where more than 660 000 do not have access to proper sanitation.
Key to the challenge faced by Namibian population resident in informal settlements is the failure to access running water which in most cases is distributed communally while waste disposal also exposes many to pollution.
In total, Namibia has a population of about 2.2 million people.
Speaking at the World Hepatitis Day this week, WHO country representative to Namibia, Dr Charles Sagoe Moses, said the country needs to find urgent solutions to deal with the outbreak of Hepatitis E and also commended the Namibian government’s effort in combating the problem which has claimed a number of lives this year.
The UN body said only 54% of the Namibian population practices handwashing at critical times because of poor sanitation facilities, a move that exposes them to hepatitis.
“We are here to recognise that in order to curb the spread of hepatitis E in the urban and informal settlements, good sanitation and hygiene for all can be achieved in Namibia. Access to improved sanitation is a basic human right, yet in Namibia, 46% nationally (Urban: 26% and Rural: 70%) practices open defecation,” he said.
Dr Moses also added that strong cooperation between the Namibian government, non-governmental organisations and local authorities was proving the way to combating the challenges associated with hygiene in the most affected areas.
As part of the cooperation, the Namibian capital’s city fathers have also proposed more than R20 million budget for the improvement of sanitation for folks living in informal settlements, who also constitute the poorest part of the population.
Namibia joined the rest of the world in celebrating World Hepatitis Day on September 7 in conjunction with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Ministry of Health and Social Services (MoHSS), City of Windhoek (COW), Development Workshop Namibia and the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA).
Executive Director of the Ministry of Health and Social Services, Ben Nangombe, emphasised the need for the community to work together to ensure total elimination of the disease.