Govt seeks N$15m from AfDB to combat drought

By Eliaser Ndeyanale

NAMIBIA has requested the African Development Bank for US$1 million to alleviate the impact of the devastating drought in the country. The government’s request came after director general of AfDB Kapil Kapoor visited Namibia this year when the need for an additional US$1 million (N$14.8 million at Tuesday’s exchange rate) was raised.

In a letter to Kapoor, dated 18 June 2019, Finance Minister Calle Schlettwein wrote to say: “I make reference to the declaration of the National Drought Emergency by His Excellency Dr Hage G. Geingob, the President of the Republic of Namibia, dated 6 May 2019, and the commitment by the AfDB to provide support to the Namibian government to address the drought situation in the country.

“I would like to request the bank to kindly consider fast tracking the release of the funds to the National Disaster Management.”

Asked this week if government had received the money, Schlettwein said “I will check up. I know we have signed the agreement, we agreed to it. All the paperwork was done I must just find out at the office. I am not there now but the agreement was made.”

A report released by AfDB in August estimated the number of rural households in Namibia affected by drought to be in the region of 42,900.

The report, titled ‘Proposal for a grant of U$1 million for humanitarian emergency assistance to mitigate the effects of 2018/19 drought’, gives a breakdown of how the U$1 million would be used.

This includes buying emergency food assistance value (US$350,000); certified seed (US$99,500); lick supplements for core herds (US$230,000); folder subsidy for livestock (US$150,000); water tank services (US$13,000), as well as operational costs and logistics, while a further US$8,500 would be used for audit services.

Over the past few months, government has been receiving drought relief aid from foreign countries but some villagers, especially in the Omusati region, have not yet received any drought relief food aid.

This was confirmed by households, especially in Ogongo, Tsandi and Okahao constituencies, who told Confidente recently that their constituency councillors had indentified 10 households in each village, each given one 12.5 kg bag of grains, 5kg of seeds (to be used in the current rainy season) and four tins of fish.

Omusati regional governor Erginus Endjala denied the allegations of delays in the distribution of food aid, saying “I don’t think that information is correct” before referring further questions to regional councillors’ offices.

Speaking to Confidente, Wilhelm Iiyambo, the councillor for Ogongo constituency, confirmed that his office was only following the procedures used countrywide on how food aid should be distributed.

“Not all the houses have been given [food aid]… That’s the procedure that is followed by the entire constituency. We asked the headmen to identify people that are in need of food and that is what had happened to all the villages in the whole constituency. Let me say it’s the whole country.

“They are also lucky and those villages are always complaining. Maybe there is one who is against the councillor,” he said while cautioning that the seeds should not be eaten because they are treated with chemicals.

Confidente reported in July that Omusati recorded in that month alone alone more than 50 cases of children under the age of 10 with stunted growth due to lack of food and poor nutrition, while 32 were found to be wasting away to skin and bones. This was according to the statistics provided by Omusati regional health director Alfons Amoomo.

The region is one of the hardest-hit areas by drought and recorded “zero harvest”, according to Governor Endjala, and recorded 14 cases of severely underweight children, while eight were diagnosed as “severely wasted.”

Ironically, those who had allegedly been given seeds are expected to give back five bags of seeds to the Ministry of Agriculture after the expected harvest (after this rainy season) but some said they had consumed the grains given to them for sowing purpose, because there is no food.

In June, four regional governors from the four northern regions promised their offices would dispatch drought relief food to needy residents but four months on that promise has not been fulfilled.

Villagers said that they had not received food and that they were only requested to register their names with their headmen, but nothing was communicated to them since then.

At the time Confidente reported that the persistent drought threatened the livelihood of some 700,000 Namibians who have become food insecure.