Windhoek According to a report released last week by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), more that 42% of people in Namibia suffer from a lack of adequate nutrition. Despite being classified by the World Bank as an upper middle-income country Namibia is currently ranked among four African countries with the highest number of under-nourished people in the world. Zambia, the Central African Republic (CAR) and Malawi were the only other countries in the same category with levels of malnutrition exceeding 35% of the population. According to the WFP report, entitled ‘The State of Food Insecurity in the World - 2015: “Heavy reliance on food imports makes Namibia susceptible to high food prices, which increases pressure on vulnerable households’ food security. Low-income earners struggle to meet their minimum daily food intake requirements, as reflected in the fact that 42.3 percent of the population is undernourished.” The WFP also points out that according to a Demographic and Health Survey conducted in 2013,a quarter of children in Namibia under the age of five (24 percent) are stunted in their growth due to a lack of adequate nutrition. The South African-based Institute of Security Studies, in its recent assessment of the country’s development trajectory, pointed out that although Namibia has a per capita income five times higher than Zimbabwe, the country lags behind Zimbabwe in terms of levels of nutrition. After South Africa, Namibia is considered the second most unequal country in the world in terms of income distribution. The ISS study suggests that unequal distribution of income has also fuelled malnutrition, as over half of the country’s income is concentrated in the top 10 percent of the population, while the poorest 60 percent (1.2 million people) control only 15 percent of national income. Asked how the Ministry of Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare plans to deal with the situation, the ministry’s permanent secretary said yesterday that the poverty eradication ministry is not solely responsible for containing malnutrition. “Yes, we understand our mandate is to fight poverty, but in this case we are not responsible for malnutrition, as we just outsource food items that can be distributed and fed to the impoverished people,” I-Ben Nashandi said. He said poverty and malnutrition are cross-cutting issues and that the ministry is in the process of drafting new guidelines to direct various ministries on how to work together to tackle issues such as mass hunger, and to find common ground on projects such as the proposed food banks. “I cannot divulge any information [about the food banks] at this stage, but what I can tell you is that we have drafted drastic measures and we have the blueprint already. It is just a matter of finalising the whole process and all stakeholders will be informed accordingly,” Nashandi said. He said the cries of the poor would soon subside as the food bank programme gets underway, although he could not confirm exactly when construction of the food bank facilities would start. “Very soon,” he said. “We will do the ground-breaking as soon as we find a suitable constructor.” The WFP notes that since 1990 Namibia has enjoyed relative stability and strong economic growth at an average of 4.8 percent. This growth, however, has not translated into reduced poverty or equitable income distribution. Namibia currently ranks 127 out of 187 countries – according to the 2014 Human Development Index. WFP’s communications specialist in Namibia Donovan Wiemers attributes the high rate of malnutrition to a number of factors, such as poverty, much of which originated prior to Independence. Poverty levels are currently estimated at 27 percent of the population and the situation is exacerbated by the fact that around 28 percent of the working age population is unemployed, as well as a high rate of HIV/Aids infection, estimated at 16 percent of the population. The HIV/Aids epidemic has in turn created a vast number of child-headed households and orphans. “This is a complex problem that needs urgent attention,” Wiemers said and argued that urgent measures need to be implemented, such as government efforts to initiate irrigation and gardening schemes, which can provide food to the rural and urban communities. The key question is how undernourished communities can be assisted to cope with food scarcity in the short- and long-term, he opined.
New Era Reporter
2016-01-12 09:22:27 3 years ago