The Covid-19 pandemic could drive the increase in acute hunger despite the country receiving improved harvests this year, Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa said yesterday.

Addressing a stakeholders’ meeting on the food and nutrition security policy in Windhoek, Kuugongelwa-Amadhila said statistics on food and nutrition security in Namibia are worrying with levels of stunting standing at 24%.

“Meaning that about one-quarter of our children are born malnourished and with impaired mental and physical growth, which will affect them for the rest of their lives,” she said.

“This has a direct effect on the country’s education and health sector. Food insecurity worsened last year, especially due to the 2019’s devastating drought, which impacted on the harvest of that year. While we had received a better harvest this year, with Covid-19, these statistics may worsen.”

According to the Acute Food Insecurity 2019 report, latest statistics, between October 2019 and March 2020, an estimated 430 000 people are facing severe acute food insecurity (IPC Phase 3+) and require urgent humanitarian action. The most affected regions are in Hardap, Kavango West, Khomas, Kunene, Ohangwena, Omaheke, Omusati and Zambezi, which are classified as IPC Phase 3 (crisis).

Crisis conditions are mainly due to the poor rainfall in the previous planting season, which led to a significant decline in cereal production in 2019.

Water shortages also contributed to significant livestock deaths in the north-western and southern regions.

In the projection period between April and September 2020, an estimated 360 000 people are expected to experience severe acute food insecurity.

The most affected regions are Hardap, Khomas, Kunene, Omusati and Zambezi, which are classified as IPC Phase 3 (Crisis). A slight improvement of the situation is expected in Kavango West, Ohangwena and Omusati. The improvement is attributable to the improved rains and favourable cereal prospects in 2020. Therefore, Kuugongelwa-Amadhila emphasised the importance of translating the policy into practical solutions that address and eventually reverse the stark statistics.

“The ‘how’ this policy will be implemented requires three critical ingredients; One: that the key actors, the leadership in this room, understand and appreciate what the policy intends to address; secondly, that we all understand the roles and contributions we are supposed to make in addressing food and nutrition security – and thirdly, that we commit to playing our respective roles and will each be accountable to ourselves and to the nation, and be able to demonstrate our respective contributions to improving the lives of our people,” she noted.