When Namibia’s President Hifikepunye Pohamba declared the country’s drought a national emergency on Friday 17 May, WFP’s support in taking that decision was instrumental. The Namibia Country Office is providing technical assistance for assessments in the country’s 13 regions through a trust fund mechanism. Building the capacity of national governments and local partners is a WFP investment priority.
ROME--In WFP’s Global Headquarters, the warning flag that poor rains had already led to livestock losses and delayed crop planting in Southern Africa was raised as early as December with a specific warning about the crisis in Namibia following in February. WFP’s Early Warning Network – the Analysis and Early Warning Unit of the Emergency
Preparedness and Response Branch (OMEP) working with the Regional Bureau and the Country Office – kept a close watch on conditions.
Further alerts were issued in the WFP monthly Early Warning Reports. The Network showed its value in ensuring all parts of WFP get the same understanding of a developing situation and the weekly State of the World Report channeled the information to WFP’s key decision-makers.
As in the Sahel emergency, having an early warning alert system has proved its worth. Warning came early in the Sahel, allowing WFP to respond faster, although that operation extended to the direct delivery of food assistance. It is getting an accurate and timely warning out which matters, putting the crises on the radar.
The Namibia alerts were underpinned with robust analysis based in part on weather forecasts produced by the Analysis and Early Warning Unit. The Unit has a specialist forecaster who used WFP’s collaboration with the UK-based European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts to predict the duration of the drought in its early stages and the end of any chance for an extended rainy season.
With 330,000 Namibians found to be in need of immediate food assistance until March 2014, the government has appealed for international help and is prioritizing food assistance to the most vulnerable communities.