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Drought in Namibia and Angola leads to rising malnutrition

Ongoing drought is endangering children in Angola
Ongoing drought is endangering children in Angola

Two years of failed rains in northern Namibia and southern Angola have left pastoral and farming communities in these regions extremely short of food.

Northern Namibia is reported to be hardest hit by the drought and in May the country’s president declared a national emergency. Early assessments this year found that more than 330,000 Namibians were in need of food aid. But recently, the country’s deputy director in the Directorate of Disaster Risk Management said the number is now more than 460,000 and continues to climb. In one region, hospital admissions for children with severe malnutrition have increased by more than 76% and nationally, 46 malnutrition-related deaths have already been recorded. The Namibian government has distributed 52,000 metric tonnes of maize meal, but officials acknowledge this is not enough.

The UN’s Child Agency, UNICEF, has launched an appeal to raise 7.4 million dollars to support malnourished women and children. The Namibian government is also expected to step up efforts to reach communities in need and hopes to procure fortified maize meal, as well as meat, fish and pulse rations. For some families, such aid cannot come too soon. Speaking to the news agency IRIN, one mother in the north-western region of Kunene said her family were only eating once a day and added “the children are going to bed hungry, and when they wake up, there’s nothing to give them”.

Little acknowledgement of crisis in Angola

Regions of southern Angola have also been badly affected by the drought and many families expect to soon use up their last food stocks. Households in Cunene province are reported to have been worst hit, with many remote communities in desperate need of clean water. Currently, only sources of stagnant or dirty water remain and cases of diarrhoea and other water-borne diseases, such as cholera, have been rising.

So far the government of Angola has played down the crisis and officials say they are not planning to ask for international assistance. Nevertheless, UNICEF has launched an appeal for 14.4 million dollars to help support women and children. According to UNICEF, 35 under-fives have died from malnutrition-related causes in Cunene Province alone so far this year. Families in other regions are also running low on food, with an estimated 1.5 million people in five other provinces in need of assistance. Normally, communities help each other through difficult times, but since the drought has affected everyone and the next harvest isn’t due till May, one aid worker in the area has warned that “the only way people would have food is through relief assistance”.

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