OTJIWARONGO - Food relief is on the way for needy households in Otjozondjupa region, as the national food bank program will roll out to Okahandja and Otjiwarongo by the end of June.
The program, which provides free parcels of food to poverty-stricken families, got the green light during a food bank consultative meeting on Wednesday between the minister of poverty eradication Zephania Kameeta, food bank consultant and former ambassador of Cuba to Namibia Angel Fernandez, Otjozondjupa governor Otto Ipinge and other Otjozondjupa regional leadership.
At the meeting, Fernandez outlined the food bank Namibia criteria and operational rolling out framework.
Under the program, only households who meet strict criteria, updated in 2017 to ensure only the most vulnerable households are registered, can qualify as beneficiaries for food relief.
According to the criteria, only households in which all Namibian citizens are in possession of a national I.D., have no members with a permanent income, are unemployed and do not run any business are eligible for food bank assistance.
Homes with able-bodied adults who can work for themselves or social assistance beneficiaries are ineligible. However, the food bank includes a window for accepting special cases such as a pensioner taking care of multiple minor dependents or a single parent.
Orphans and vulnerablel children child grant recipients are not excluded from the program.
A seven-membered trained street committee will be assigned to both Otjiwarongo and Okahandja to register qualified beneficiaries and distribute food parcels.
Each team will be led by a coordinator, recruited from the communities where the program is established. A liaison officer will also be appointed to supervise and control activities of the street committee members and liaise between regional operations and the Ministry of Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare.
During the meeting, some attendees advocated for the food bank to be rolled out to rural areas. However, the minister Kameeta and governor Ipinge highlighted that rural communities are already designated for specific government assistance such as drought relief aid. They noted the food bank is only a small portion of government assistance among other programs.
Kameeta stated the implementation of many established social programs is a disease in Namibia, preventing support from reaching residents nationwide.
“It’s not fair to say poverty is more in rural areas in the towns. The main issue is how are programs being implemented. And it’s the responsibility of those of us in leadership to make sure things happen,” Kameeta said.
He stressed that division should not get in the way of delivering services to the disadvantaged, adding: “We all have different parties, but there are certain things that should be above party politics.”
The minister added the food bank is not meant to be deter families from working toward self-reliance and is not a solution to all social problems in Namibia.
The end of June will mark the third anniversary of the food bank program. Government is currently finalising a national social protection policy that will streamline all social protection programs into a single registry, with the aim of maximising government resources and improving the delivery of aid to beneficiaries.
*Kaylan Shipang is an information officer at the Otjozondjupa regional office of the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology.