Not much has been said about the unfolding humanitarian crisis in many parts of Kunene region where a crippling drought has led to a carnage of livestock and survival of the fittest. Even more resilient animals such as goats and sheep are unable to withstand the prevailing drought, resulting in massive losses over the months.
This drought crisis is, according to those on the ground, on a scale not seen before and things could get worse if no rainfall is received this month. The situation is so dire that families have now flocked to the outskirts of Opuwo, which is the nearest urban centre in the area, in search of survival.
Reports on the ground indicate that some families have been forced to travel for up to 200km in search of better survival for themselves and their surviving livestock.
However, commendably, the Office of the Prime Minister has chipped in to assist these families and their livestock with water through the Opuwo Urban constituency office.
The dry spell in Kunene is playing itself out at a time when many parts of the country have seen heavy rains this year. However, the drought-hit areas of Kunene have not been fortunate enough, a state compounded by a prolonged drought, which has led to a depletion of both water and pasture.
For some locals, the region is suffering its worst hunger crisis in years. “This is the worst drought we are facing – we thought last year was worse when we lost our cattle, but it is even more sad now that our goats are also dying,” mother of five Tjaueza Tjiningira told this publication this week.
While it is true that the successive mixture of drought and flooding has been a challenge for central government, it is our considered view that the authorities should consider declaring a drought emergency in the affected areas to allow donors to meet government halfway and provide assistance to the struggling farmers and communities who are on the edge and in the grip of starvation.
According to Opuwo Urban councillor Ueutjerevi Ngunaihe, the people are in need of urgent food aid, while a drought assessment is also required to roll out the needed help.
We understand this would be a huge logistical undertaking, considering that sourcing, purchase and delivery of food aid will still have to take place. However, the drought in Kunene is not new and we believe government should be able to dip into its food reserve and redistribute the aid where it is needed the most.
Equally, it will really be good to see good Samaritans, including commercial farmers, who have been rejoicing over the spate of good rains this season, come on board and help their struggling counterparts who are now left to fend for themselves.
At the end of the day, we should bear in mind that it is the extremely poor living in rural areas and who depend on rain-fed agriculture for their livelihoods that are extremely vulnerable to the devastating drought.