WFP & UNICEF LAUNCH EMERGENCY APPEALS TO HELP OVER 600,000 WOMEN AND CHILDREN IN NAMIBIA
JOHANNESBURG - The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) today launched emergency appeals totalling US$5.8 million to help more than 600,000 orphans, vulnerable children and women in Namibia, who are suffering from the combined effects of erratic weather, severe poverty and the worsening HIV/AIDS epidemic.
"Tens of thousands of children and their families will face severe difficulties in the coming months unless international assistance is forthcoming," said Mike Sackett, WFP Regional Director for southern Africa. "A swift response is needed to contain the crisis and give the government time to build up its capacity during this acute emergency."
Namibia, with a population of 1.8 million, has sharp income variations, deep poverty and perennial food deficits which are now compounded by three years of erratic weather in northern Namibia and HIV/AIDS. According to the government, more than 640,000 people - one-third of the population - are in need of food aid.
With its limited resources, the Namibian government plans to give food assistance to some 530,000 people. WFP will provide 8,000 tonnes of food to an additional 111,000 rural children and their families in the six worst-affected northern districts. WFP is appealing for $5.2 million to fund its emergency operation in Namibia for the next six months.
As part of its relief programme, UNICEF will help the Ministry of Health and Social Services to provide insecticide treated bed nets to prevent malaria, expand immunisation campaigns, undertake Vitamin A distribution and improve nutritional surveillance. A recent UN mission to Namibia found that acute malnutrition in children under five is as high as 15 percent in affected areas. This indicates a nutritional emergency. UNICEF is appealing for $616,000 to fund its emergency operation to provide assistance to some 500,000 people in the country for the next six months.
"The lingering threat of malnutrition means that this appeal must go beyond food aid," said Per Engebak, Regional Director of UNICEF. "The Namibian government is usually able to assist communities in need but this current crisis exceeds the government's capacity to respond."
"Even though the rains have arrived, in some cases there are very few adults to plough the fields, because now - like so many of its neighbours in southern Africa - Namibia is starting to feel the full force of HIV/AIDS. This is also eroding and over burdening the health care system," Engebak said.
In recent years, HIV/AIDS has spread across Namibia with extraordinary speed, soaring from just four percent in 1992 to its current level of 22 percent - the seventh highest rate in the world.
Increased adult mortality has led to a steep rise in the number of orphans. Latest estimates indicate that at least 120,000 children have been orphaned as a result of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Namibia.
Namibia's current food crisis has also been exacerbated by a widespread lack of purchasing power caused by an official unemployment rate of over 30 percent with half the population living below the poverty line. An international drought appeal launched by the government in November 2003 has still not been fully funded.
"This joint UN appeal will complement the government's efforts to cope with the drought and ensure that besides food, the health and nutritional needs of the most vulnerable are met," said Mike Sackett of WFP.
WFP will continue to distribute food to around 14,000 Angolan refugees living in northern Namibia, whom it has been assisting since June last year. Up to 10,000 of the refugees are scheduled to return home later this year. WFP will provide them with take-home rations so that they have at least two months of food stocks when they arrive back in Angola.
WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency. In 2003 WFP fed nearly 104 million people in 81 countries including most of the world's refugees and internally displaced people.
UNICEF's priorities are care and support for orphans and vulnerable children; immunization of all children; building a protective environment for children; promoting quality basic education and the prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV/ AIDS
For more information please contact:
Deputy Director Communications
Tel: +1-202-6530010 ext. 1149