Drought disaster calls for unity of purpose

IT is now a public secret that we are reeling from one of our most ravaging droughts for the past three decades and since President Hage Geingob declared this tragedy a national disaster in May, the clearest reality has been that government cannot tackle it alone.

Appeals for assistance have been made on a regional and international level and with applause, close to N$100 million has already been raised to mitigate the effects of the drought that has put the lives of close to 700 000 Namibians at risk of hunger.

While these efforts show the spirit of Ubuntu and Harambee, we call for more businesses and individuals to join hands with Government and donate towards saving those of us who without any assistance will lose more than just their already lost livestock.

Affecting 23 arid and semi-arid countries and pockets of other areas, the current drought not only underlines the importance of Namibia to become climate resilient but also calls for the full implementation of the Paris Climate Agreement.

This is the third time in six years that the government has declared a state of emergency, a clear indication of how the farmers in particular have endured long standing suffering that now more than ever requires stakeholders to join hands and find better solutions.

Indeed, the government has always maintained that it is prepared to take long-term measures and that it is looking ahead as well as addressing short-term concerns, but with one of the world’s most trying climates likely to get even more unpredictable and difficult to manage, the extent of what needs to be done to protect Namibians and their ways of life cannot be underestimated.

The current challenges have also come with warning and very little has been done to mitigate effects. The vulnerability and adaptation assessment report that government commissioned 10 years ago outlines a number of worrying trends.

In terms of temperature a study found that over the last 40 years the frequency of days when it exceeds 35 degree celcius had increased, along with average maximum temperatures. The report also said that Namibia will continue to get warmer, with its most extreme prediction being an increase of 4° celcius by 2046.

As for rainfall, the report predicted that Namibia could experience shorter periods of more intensive rainfall as well as much more variability in its climate. This, the report explained, could lead to more severe and frequent droughts, but also to a higher likelihood of floods which can prove similarly devastating. In March 2011, for example, flooding in the Kalahari basin led to the displacement of 21,000 people and contributed to the spread of cholera.

Armed with such information, disaster prediction and management should be handled at a better level than it is being handled by authorities and the effects should not have to be as severe as those experienced by those that are not prepared.

Like other hazards, the impacts of drought span economic, environmental and social sectors can be reduced through mitigation and preparedness. Because droughts are a normal part of climate variability for virtually all regions, it is important to develop plans to deal with these extended periods of water shortage in a timely, systematic manner as they evolve.