Namibia is to spend about US$ 150 million on emergency food distribution and social mitigation measures as rural poor buckle under rising prices of food and fuel, compounded with the impact of drought and devastating floods.
Government, alarmed by the rate at which prices of basic commodities have shot through the roof, said that it had sketched a bold plan to roll out emergency food distribution to more than 500,000 people, who have found themselves at the deep end of biting food shortages, due to drought and devastating floods.
Namibian Prime Minister Nahas Angula said Thursday the food security situation in the country was ‘dire’, adding that government had decided to intervene, to ea s e the impact on vulnerable households.
The move came as zero-rating of cooking oil, bread, beans and cake flour comes into effect 1 August.
This is in addition to a schools feeding programme, which has been expanded to l earners at non-boarding schools.
Analysts warned that rising food prices had become a short-fused time bomb and could lead to social uprisings.
Angula admitted that most people were finding it difficult to “pull through”, ad ding that a prolonged drought in 2007, followed by devastating floods early this year, had resulted in most “households finding themselves in very difficult situations as far as food security is concerned.”
According to him, a survey conducted by a government team in conjunction with the World Food Programme concluded the food security situation in the country, caused by general poverty, is dire.
He said that government would, in two-weeks, initially give out about US$ 45 million to feed families who were at the receiving end of floods in the northern an d eastern parts of the country as an interim measure.
A comprehensive programme to benefit the whole country will subsequently be rolled out to provide households with basics such as meali-meal, mahangu, dried fish , cooking oil and beans, among other food stuffs, until the next harvest.
“We are trying to ensure that nobody starves in Namibia and at the same time, we want to boost the nutrition of our citizens,” Angulu said, adding
“we have also discovered that there is widespread malnutrition with Caprivi region being the highest..children in that region are highly malnourished.”
Government is also swiftly moving to bolster social safety net programmes such a s the provision of grants to the elderly, war veterans, orphans and vulnerable children.