- With erratic weather, severe poverty and the worsening HIV/AIDS epidemic combining to create an acute crisis in Namibia, two UN agencies today launched emergency appeals totalling US$ 5.8 million to help more than 600,000 orphans, vulnerable children and women. This represents a third of the population of Namibia, one of Africa's richest countries.
A recent UN mission to Namibia found that acute malnutrition in children under five was as high as 15 percent in some areas. According to figures from the Namibian government, more than 640,000 people are in need of food assistance. Now, the government has been assured of intensified UN assistance in meeting the current crisis. Two UN agencies today launch emergency appeal on Namibia's behalf.
- Tens of thousands of children and their families will face severe difficulties in the coming months unless international assistance is forthcoming, said Mike Sackett of the World Food Programme (WFP), presenting an appeal for US$ 5.2 million to fund its emergency operation for the next six months.
The crisis in one of Africa's richest countries has now advanced so much that the Windhoek government is incapable of responding to it on its own. With its limited resources, the Namibian government nevertheless plans to give food assistance to some 530,000 people.
WFP on the other hand plans to provide 8,000 tons of food to 111,000 rural children and their families in the six northern districts that have suffered most from three years of erratic weather. "A swift response is needed to contain the crisis and give the government time to build up its capacity during this acute emergency," comments Mr Sackett.
For its part, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) is seeking US$ 616,000 to fund its emergency operation for the coming half year to help some 500,000 people by providing insecticide treated bed nets to prevent malaria, expanding immunisation campaigns, undertaking Vitamin A distribution and improving nutritional surveillance.
- The lingering threat of malnutrition means that this appeal must go beyond food aid, says Per Engebak of UNICEF, adding that the current "crisis exceeds the [Namibian] government's capacity to respond."
In recent years, HIV/AIDS has spread across Namibia with extraordinary speed. Official numbers see the disease soaring from just 4 percent in 1992 to its current estimated 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, warn the two UN agencies. Latest estimates indicate that at least 120,000 children have been orphaned as a result of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Namibia. The UN also co-funds the Namibian government's AIDS programme and non-governmental organisations working against AIDS in the country.
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