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Archive for August 14th, 2013

Norway: Oil Fund Report 2013 – serious deficiencies in the Fund’s strategy

Posted by African Press International on August 14, 2013

Today, Re-Define publishes a major new report on Norway’s Sovereign Wealth Fund, now the World’s largest. We find serious deficiencies in the Fund’s strategy that mean it is falling behind its peers in investment returns and has inadvertently taken on concentrated risks by failing to diversify its investments into developing countries, while focusing excessively on liquid investments in OECD economies. 

We recommend major change to the Fund’s strategy. Please let us know if you need more information or would like to arrange an interview with Sony Kapoor, the author of the report. 

Win-win or lose-lose is the question facing Norway’s $760bn sovereign wealth fund according to a major Re-Define-report commissioned by Norwegian Church Aid published today. The report argues that the GPF must urgently re-balance its portfolio away from Developed economies towards emerging and developing countries. This is necessary to deliver higher returns for Norway for lower risk and could generate millions of jobs in developing countries.

The report also highlights how high the exposure of the GPF to policy actions designed to tackle climate change is and recommends a sell-off of all oil, gas and coal assets. It also makes the case for the GPF making green investments in order to reduce risk.

Overall, the report argues that the GPF could be doing much more to exploit the unique potential that its large size, its long-term horizon and its responsibility mandate confer on it.

“Unless it changes its current strategy and invests heavily in illiquid assets in faster growing developing economies, the GPF will continue to fail to deliver on its target 4% rate of return.

The GPF sharply underperforms many of its peers directly as a result of its refusal to be strategic, buy in illiquid assets or invest much in developing countries.

By trying to be conservative in avoiding ‘negative headline risk’ the GPF has inadvertently traded in its obligation to ‘maximize returns subject to moderate risk’ for a strategy that delivers ‘modest returns while taking on concentrated risks’.”

Says Sony Kapoor, Managing Director of Re-Define and the author of the report

In highlighting the shortcomings of the GPF’s strategy, he says that

“For a Fund that supposedly seeks to diversify its investments to minimise risks, the Fund is unacceptably exposed to the structural and demographic problems afflicting over-indebted developed economies.

The GPF squanders its potential for being the ultimate long-term investor by having more than 99% of its investments in liquid securities that investors with much shorter time horizons can also hold.” says Kapoor  

The Fund currently invests a lot in developed / OECD economies, but growth rates and yields in developed countries are expected to be lower, and risks in these economies are expected to rise. Of the 95 countries that grew at 4% or faster in 2011, only Chile and Sweden were OECD countries.

In order to better reflect the current and the future shape of the world economy, as well as to try and harness the fruit of faster expected growth in the non-OECD economies, the GPF must significantly expand its geographic reach of countries it invests in.

For this, the report recommends the setting up of a $200bn GPF-growth that will focus on making infrastructure and private equity investments in developing countries.

“This is the only way GPF can deliver on its fiduciary duty towards Norwegian citizens – by maximizing returns for moderate risk in a both sustainable and responsible way, he says. Not only will this be good for Norway, it will also enable faster growth in poorer economies and creating millions of much-needed jobs”, Kapoor goes on to say.

Based on its direct and indirect effects, additional investments of $200 billion by the GPF-Growth can help create more than a 100 million jobs in the private sector in poor developing economies, thereby having a substantial positive outcome on growth potential, poverty reduction and quality of life in these countries.

Norwegian Church Aid (NCA), a major Norwegian development organization, commissioned the report.

– As owners of the World’s largest Sovereign Wealth Fund we have a great responsibility. Developing countries face massive unemployment and desperately need to create more jobs. But, they lack the capital to do so, Anne-Marie Helland, General Secretary of NCA says.

– If we had invested considerably more in these countries we would have contributed to more jobs, tax income and economic growth in these countries. As it is, we contribute to a more unequal world and that needs to stop, Helland says.

– I’m thrilled by the positive opportunities Norway’s money can create. Our fund can create millions of jobs where they are most needed. By investing more in developing countries we’re putting our money in the future, Helland says.

– Jobs are the best and surest way out of poverty. But investments can combat poverty only if they create decent jobs with good salaries, tax income for the state and by considering the environment. We want good investments, Helland says.

HERE BELOW IS THE COMPLETE REPORT FOR YOUR STUDY: Oilfund Final Report 2013 – Norway situation – Investing for the future





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Ethiopian political leadership must respect human rights; says Bizualem Beza

Posted by African Press International on August 14, 2013

African Press International (API)

Ethiopia, officially known as the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is bordered by Eritrea to the north, Djibouti and Somalia to the east, Sudan and South Sudan to the west, and Kenya to the south. With over 91,000,000 inhabitants, Ethiopia is the most populous landlocked country in the world and the second-most populated nation on the African continent. It occupies a total area of 1,100,000 square kilometres (420,000 sq mi), and its capital and largest city is Addis Ababa.

The sudden death in August 2012 of Ethiopia’s long-serving and powerful prime minister, Meles Zenawi, provoked uncertainty over the country’s political transition, both domestically and among Ethiopia’s international partners. Ethiopia’s human rights record has sharply deteriorated, especially over the past few years, and although a new prime minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, took office in September, it remains to…

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Criminal groups have benefited from globalization – Embedding crime experts into UN field operations?

Posted by African Press International on August 14, 2013

Nigerian police in the UN mission to Haiti assist in quelling a student protest in Port au Prince in 2009


  • Criminal groups have benefited from globalization
  • Overlap of UN peace operations and crime-affected regions
  • Organized crime can corrupt governments
  • Difficult for UNPOL to recruit effective crime-fighters

NEW YORK,  – The globalization of organized crime poses a growing threat to fragile states that lack the ability to resist it, putting pressure on the UN to find solutions.

A recently-released report entitled The Elephant in the Room, part of the New York-based International Peace Institute’s Peace Without Crime series, argues that “crime has become a serious threat in almost every theater where the UN has peace operations.” The authors of the report (Walter Kemp, Mark Shaw and Arthur Boutellis) argue that organized crime is eroding the UN’s attempts to bring about peace and stability in the many countries in which it has missions and yet these missions contain very few references to crime.

Criminal groups are one of the biggest beneficiaries of globalization, says Kemp, director for Europe and Central Asia at the IPI. “Over the last 20 years organized crime has gone global. It has reached macro-economic proportions.” Globalization has seen the growth in traffic around the world of just about everything – including contraband, says Kemp. Whereas organized crime was once regarded as a problem pertaining to the developed world, and confined mostly to cities, it has in the last few years rapidly spread its tentacles across the globe, finding new routes and penetrating vulnerable West African states like Guinea Bissau and Mali. “Much of the instability in West Africa is due to the impact of drug-trafficking from Latin America to Europe,” argue the authors.

As contraband is trafficked from one corner of the globe to the other, often moving through several transit countries, national – and even regional – crackdowns may simply shift the problem onto adjacent, potentially more vulnerable countries. Yet should the UN’s peacekeeping forces be tasked with fighting organized crime?

The authors concede that other parts of the UN may be better suited to dealing with the challenge but argue that given that “organized crime is threatening the stability, development and justice that peacekeepers are trying to establish,” peacekeeping forces cannot turn a blind eye.

While organized crime and peace operations “had almost nothing to do with each other” 50 years ago, “at the beginning of the 21st century the trajectories have converged,” they say. As peacekeeping has seen a greater integration between civilian and military aspects, and is as much about building up institutions and states as restoring the rule of law, organized crime has evolved too, “from a localized problem into a pervasive, strategic threat to governments, societies and economies”.

The authors show an overlap of UN peace operations and major crime-affected regions – Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Iraq, Kosovo and Timor-Leste to name a few – and conclude this is because “conflict affected and fragile regions – precisely the places where the UN is most needed – are especially vulnerable to transnational organized crime and provide favorable conditions for its development.”

In the first report in the series, Identifying the Spoilers, they spell out how peacekeepers and other players can identify signs of organized crime in the countries in which they operate. Elephant in the Room, the second report, shows how organized crime has had a destabilizing impact on the political economy of three nations – Guinea-Bissau, Haiti and Kosovo – and finds a “mismatch between the seriousness of the threat posed by organized crime and the UN’s ability to tackle it”.

They argue the limitations of a purely militarist approach – as when the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) countered the gang violence in Haiti. Despite their successes, they have not been able to halt the organized crime networks that still operate in and beyond Haiti’s borders. The third report, due out soon, looks at what the UN and international players can do at a systemic level to address the problem. Up to now, say the authors, “there is not much enthusiasm for the UN to tackle organized crime.”

Crime-and-instability nexus

Crucial to their argument is the notion that there is a “nexus between crime and instability” and that when transnational organized crime funds the activities and thus furthers the political aims of insurgents or rebels or corrupts governments at the highest level, the fall-out can be huge. This occurred in Guinea Bissau, for example, when the president, João Bernardo Vieira, was assassinated in 2009 in alleged drug-related rivalry between political and military officials.

“Good police work is of little use when the courts do not convict or where prisoners are released, and building capacity among corrupt officials can have unintended consequences.”

While the quantities of cocaine being trafficked through Guinea-Bissau are relatively small (an estimated 25 tons per year), at around 25 percent of the country’s GNP this is still high enough to corrupt high-level officials and undermine the tiny economy. Other contraband passing through other West African countries such as Liberia, Sierra Leone, DRC, and Cote d’Ivoire – and possibility posing a bigger problem in future – include fuel, timber, people, minerals, diamonds and ivory.

Terrorism versus crime

Shaw, director of Communities, Crime and Conflicts at STATT Consulting, says the focus on the threat posed by terrorism over the past decade has overshadowed the growth of crime networks. “The attention has been on the war in Iran and Afghanistan,” he says. Even the problem of opium-trafficking in the latter country has been viewed through the prism of the war. But the alarming nexus of organized crime, insurgency and terrorism in Mali has alerted the world to the fact that organized crime can step into the political vacuum in societies in upheaval.

Libya, warns Shaw, may become a haven for organized crime. “There are lots of unemployed young men, established militia and weapons, and the country is at the crossroads of a number of trafficking routes,” he says.

Crime-instability link overstated?

Ted Leggett, a research officer with the UN Office for Drugs and Crime, acknowledges a frequent overlap between organized crime and political instability but believes the connection can be overstated at times. It is important, he says, to make the distinction between the problem of local strongmen and the problem of transnational trafficking. Insurgents or rebels may profit from transnational trafficking – for example the Taliban’s taxing of opium production and trafficking in Afghanistan (earning them US$125 million annually), or militias’ involvement in trafficking minerals in DRC, to advance their wars – but they rarely take charge of the trafficking themselves. “Rather, they provide protection to transnational traffickers, specialists who pay them to operate in the areas that they control. It’s like the relationship between a state and the corporations headquartered within it. The US government does not export Ford autos, but it does tax Ford,” he says.

On the Elephant in the Room’s broader argument, Leggett says: “The idea that peacekeeping missions should help the host states build their capacity to deal with transnational organized crime is a good one but any such intervention would face serious challenges.” It is difficult, he says, for UN Police to recruit the kind of specialized staff required. “Most police peacekeepers are patrol officers from other developing countries” with limited skills and resources. Often, they can’t speak the local language. Given that “dealing with transnational organized crime requires a sophisticated understanding of the local context”, this is highly problematic. Another problem, says Leggett, and as the authors of the report note, is that the security forces are themselves often implicated in trafficking.

He adds: “Good police work is of little use when the courts do not convict or where prisoners are released, and building capacity among corrupt officials can have unintended consequences.”

Embedding crime experts into UN field operations?

The IPI report authors conclude with recommendations on how peace operations can tackle organized crime more effectively. As Shaw notes, “the complexities of illicit trafficking require much more than a law enforcement response.” Pooling information and utilizing regional offices, for example the UN Office for West Africa in Dakar, is key, as is embedding crime experts into UN field operations. Peacekeepers are well-placed to collect information, which must be managed and analysed at a higher level. They may baulk at the notion of intelligence gathering, “(but) as the UN increasingly becomes a target for terrorist attacks, and as UN operations become more exposed to complex situations involving armed groups and criminal networks, there is a growing realization and acceptance that peace operations need to have access to intelligence,” they say.

The development approach

Meanwhile, some argue that the best way vulnerable states – particularly those in conflict and post-conflict situations – can be protected from transnational organized crime is by taking a development approach: in other words, strengthening their economic, civic and government structures.

Graeme Simpson, director of Interpeace USA, which seeks to build social and political cohesion in post-conflict societies, argues that neither law enforcement approaches, nor the peacekeepers, can effectively combat transnational organized crime. “These approaches are addressing the symptoms but not the underlying deficiencies that make countries vulnerable to organized crime,” he says. “Drug cartels and drug-based economies are vibrant and they hold and employ huge numbers of people. Unless we create alternative sustainable economies and legitimate polities in these communities we won’t be able to offer alternative and viable ways for people to survive,” he adds.

pg/cb  source


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Small-scale traders face constant harassment from security forces and corrupt government officials

Posted by African Press International on August 14, 2013

Goma, the capital of the Congolese eastern province of North Kivu, continues to face serious challenges

GOMA, – Three years ago when Jean*, 41, applied for a license to open a hardware shop in Goma, capital of North Kivu Province in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), he had to pay a fee of US$1,500 to the General Tax Directorate, and the whole process took a year.

“Every time I went to the [tax] office, they denied I ever paid the money, yet I had an official receipt from the General Tax Directorate. I had to pay a bribe to get the license,” he told IRIN.

Since opening, Jean has had to contend with different people claiming to be government officials coming regularly to his shop asking him to pay additional taxes.

“Here nothing works because all the time, people come to you saying they are from the General Tax Directorate but they have no identification at all. You just have to pay them. The tax they ask for is never uniform and depends on the mood of the person who comes to collect it,” he added.

Jean’s experience highlights the incapacity, or virtual absence, of state institutions and endemic corruption in this part of DRC.

Another example: The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimates that two thirds of children in North and South Kivu provinces do not have a birth certificate, though you have to have one (in theory at least) to be enrolled in school in the DRC.

But it is not just the lack of an effective state bureaucracy that worries some observers – many health and education services in eastern DRC are funded or controlled by aid agencies.

A March 2013 paper by Koen Vlassenroot and Karen Büscher of the Conflict Research Group argues that in Goma and elsewhere in eastern DRC, power, authority and state sovereignty have been transferred to aid organizations.

“Due to a lack of means, capacity, motivation, vision, corruption and mismanagement, state services have been constantly hollowed out and have increasingly been replaced by new coalitions of local and international development actors.”

One effect “of the humanitarian sector’s presence and interventions is the encouragement of state withdrawal from public services and a transfer of power and legitimacy to the advantage of international actors. This sector has largely taken over education and health care, and even the rehabilitation of road infrastructure,” they said.

For instance, in the provinces of North and South Kivu, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) runs 40 health centres, nine health posts, and four referral clinics and supports 11 government-owned health clinics.

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) appealed for nearly US$6 million to fund educational activities in North and South Kivu in 2012; and $9 million for education and 2.8 million for nutrition and water, sanitation and hygiene services for the whole of DRC in 2013.

According to Büscher and Vlassenroot, international aid agencies have replaced the state in key sectors. They say development “is understood locally as a responsibility of the humanitarian sector” – meaning that citizens see development, or the lack of it, as the effort or failure of aid organizations operating in the area.

“Governance by substitution”

Marc-Andre Lagrange, Central Africa senior analyst at the International Crisis Group (ICG), told IRIN: “The Congolese administration based in Kinshasa has chosen governance by substitution in managing the affairs of the country’s eastern region” in which the government appears to have handed over the responsibility of providing services to aid organizations.

Small-scale traders face constant harassment from security forces and corrupt government officials

This, Lagrange argues, is not “something new in DRC as it was the Mobutu regime that introduced that practice of weakening the state apparatus and handing over social services to humanitarian and charitable organizations. Education and health care have long since been taken over by the Catholic Church in most of the country. Organizations such as MSF were present in DRC long before 1994 [and have provided health care since].”

Problems are many

Pacifique Borauzima Buluhukiro, a programme officer in Goma with International Alert, told IRIN: “The roads are in disrepair; electricity is irregular in town and absent in rural areas. Schools and health facilities are in poor condition and are in inaccessible areas [even] for humanitarian organizations.”

Armed groups continue to control large swathes of the region. A result of these conflicts has been the internal displacement of an estimated 2.7 million people, the third largest internal displacement in the world.

“The government doesn’t provide anything”

Those who live in camps around Goma, uprooted from their homes by armed rebel groups, say they do not receive any assistance from the government.

Nadia, a 27-year-old mother of three from Ruthshuru, told IRIN from Mugunga 3, a camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) on the outskirts of Goma: “We have no food, water or even [security] and the government doesn’t even visit to see how we live. Only NGOs at times come here to help.”

Lack of access to clean water has made cholera and waterborne diseases endemic. The absence of government investment in the health sector has meant the few clinics, operated mostly by aid agencies, are overstretched and unable to cope.

“At times people come and we just look at them because we don’t have any way of helping them. We have no drugs. At times some organizations offer to help but it is too little and it runs out quickly. The government doesn’t provide anything,” a nurse at a government-owned health facility, told IRIN.


A Congolese human rights activist who preferred anonymity told IRIN that even though taxes are levied through the General Tax Directorate, the revenue ends up in the pockets of government officials.

“Corruption in DRC is endemic. The country has an undemocratic, authoritarian and untransparent governance system that supports patronage networks based on the exchange of favours and murky resource transfers”

“Corruption in DRC is endemic. The country has an undemocratic, authoritarian and untransparent governance system that supports patronage networks based on the exchange of favours and murky resource transfers,” Marta Martinelli, a programme officer at the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA), said in a recent report.

A senior civil servant in the North Kivu governor’s office told IRIN political leaders are focused more on retaining political power than providing services.

“The resources available are used to extend political patronage. In the eastern part, the conflict is a good excuse for government officials to say `when there is peace, we will come to help’,” he said.

Francois Rumuzi, a 24-year-old trader in Goma, told IRIN that seeing the poorly paid local police, who do little to protect residents from criminals, is the closest he gets to feeling the government’s presence.

“When you listen to the radio, you hear government officials talk about this or that, but the government doesn’t help people here. Even the police here say they can’t protect us because the government doesn’t pay them,” he said.

Fidel Bafilemaba, a Goma-based researcher with the Enough Project, said the absence of an effective state presence has made eastern DRC the “nerve centre” of what he called DRC’s “non-state status”. He said conflict had exposed “the government’s failure in security, health and education sector reforms”. He said the situation had led many to declare the DRC “a failed state”.

Traditional chiefs

Analysts have accused the government of leaving governance and development to traditional leaders in rural areas, something they say has failed because local chiefs have no constitutionally defined roles.

In a July 2013 analysis entitled Understanding Conflict in Eastern Congo (I): The Ruzizi Plain, ICG said; “The government remains ineffective in rural areas, leaving customary chiefs, whose role is recognised by the constitution but not fully defined, virtually in charge. They use their key position between the state and communities to benefit from any state and international investments and to protect their own interests. This fuels conflict, with intercommunal rivalries playing out in state institutions and among local and national politicians.”

To solve this problem, ICG said the Congolese authorities should “disseminate the laws on customary powers to the population and customary authorities, and train customary chiefs so they can assume their functions in accordance with the law.”

In its 2012 report Ending the Deadlock: Towards a new vision of peace in eastern DRC International Alert argues that for the state to have more legitimacy there needs to be better access to, and management of, land in rural areas; a more rational division and management of political power; better management of returning refugees and IDPs; and recognition of the importance of security.

According to OSISA’s Martinelli, DRC has serious flaws in its democratic system, a weak justice sector, deeply entrenched corruption and a “neglected or non-existent infrastructure, which prevents the effective delivery of public services”.

*not a real name

ko/am/cb source

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Severe drought is killing everything

Posted by African Press International on August 14, 2013

Kariamakuju Kauta’s plot of land has turned to dust

OPUWO,  – The arid hills of Namibia’s northwestern Kunene Region make for a harsh environment at the best of times. With agriculture limited by the region’s dry, sandy soil, most of the local population rely on livestock farming, leading a semi-nomadic existence dictated by the search for fresh pasture for their cattle and goats. But following two years of failed rains, pasture is almost non-existent; where there used to be grass, there is now little more than dust.

“The drought is killing everything,” said Teemuime Mbendura, who lives in a Himba homestead, about one hour’s drive north of the regional capital, Opuwo.

The Ovahimba have largely managed to maintain their traditional way of life in northern Namibia, including the women’s practice of applying a mixture of animal fat and ochre to their skin and hair to achieve a distinctive reddish hue. But increasingly erratic rains – which are expected to grow even more variable in the future, according to climate change predictions – are threatening the sustainability of their pastoral existence.

Mbendura does not know her age – “Maybe a thousand years,” she says – but she is certain this is the first time in her life that the rains have failed for two consecutive years. “The old men used to consult the ancestors to ask for rain, but now there are no old men left at the homestead, and the younger ones don’t do this,” she told IRIN.

The younger men are noticeably absent from the homestead, which consists of huts encircled by a makeshift fence. Most have taken their cattle to distant patches of pasture in an effort to keep them alive.

“My husband is at the cattle post,” said Maikotoka Mbendura, pointing towards some mountains on the horizon. “He’s been gone two months. He left us with some maize meal, but it’s not enough. The children are hungry.”

Mbendura is preparing a watery porridge for her three year old, using what is left of the maize meal purchased from the sale of a few cattle. “We’re worried the rest will die from the drought; some have died already,” she said, adding that the starving cattle no longer produce milk.

National emergency

Although northern Namibia has been hardest hit by the current drought, the entire country has been affected, according to Hellen Likanda, deputy director of the Directorate of Disaster Risk Management, which is coordinating the drought response. “People did not harvest enough food in all the regions,” she said.

President Hifikepunye Pohamba declared the drought a national emergencyon 17 May after an initial assessment found that 331,000 people were in need of food aid. That figure has since climbed to over 460,000 and continues to rise, said Likanda, who admitted that the 52,000 metric tonnes of maize meal already distributed by the government was not enough.

Click to view more photos

Following the emergency declaration, the government allocated 200 million Namibian dollars (US$20.1 million) to the drought response, but Likanda said that more funding was needed and that the government was currently drafting a gap analysis that would be used to appeal to international donors to help meet the shortfall. The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has launched its own appeal to raise $7.4 million to respond to the needs of women and children while the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is appealing for $1.48 million.

Current assistance insufficient

The government’s initial procurement of maize meal came from local small- and medium-sized millers that lacked the capacity to fortify it with much-needed nutrients. Likanda noted that future procurements would stipulate that maize meal be fortified and supplemented with rations of meat, fish and pulses.

Kunene’s governor, Joshua Hoebeb, said that the 49,000 bags of maize meal the region had so far received did not match the numbers of people registered for food aid, which was in the 70,000s and increasing on a daily basis. “We need to provide aid until the first harvest [in March] next year,” he told journalists gathered at his offices in Opuwo, “and we don’t know where the next shipment of maize is going to come from.”

None of the households that IRIN interviewed in Kunene had received food assistance. “The government promised food, but it hasn’t come,” said Teemuime Mbendura. Her extended family at the homestead is now largely dependent on the 500 Namibian dollars ($50) a month one or two family members receive in old-age pensions. The men are reluctant to slaughter or sell their cattle to buy food, partly because the meat is fetching significantly less than it would in a normal year, even with the additional 300 Namibian dollars ($30) per cow that the government is offering as an incentive for destocking. Cattle also represent a Himba man’s pride and prosperity.

Kapara Mbinge, 35, has returned to the homestead for a funeral, following a three-day journey from a cattle post 140km away. So far, he has lost six animals to the drought and sold two, but he still has a herd of 65. “I don’t normally sell them,” he told IRIN. “They are my wealth.”

The Zemba, another traditional group in the region, depend less on livestock farming and more on cultivating crops, but they are faring no better. Kariamakuju Kauta, 55, estimates that she has enough maize left from this year’s meagre harvest to feed her family of 12 for one more week. The parched soil did not yield any vegetables, and the family’s six cattle have all died. “For now, we are eating once a day,” she said. “The children are going to bed hungry, and when they wake up, there’s nothing to give them.”

“The children are going to bed hungry, and when they wake up, there’s nothing to give them”

Five of her family members have gone to Opuwo in search of work, an increasingly common response to the drought, according to Kakarandua Mutambo, regional manager for the Namibia Red Cross Society (NRCS).

“Government aid is taking time,” Mutambo said, adding that it is only targeting rural households. With more families move closer to town in the hope of earning an income, NRCS is about to open a soup kitchen there that will initially feed 200 children once a day.

UNICEF is also partnering with NRCS to provide funding and technical support for the training of volunteers in four of the most affected regions, including Kunene. They will be deployed to communities to educate residents about basic health and hygiene practices and to screen vulnerable children for signs of malnutrition. A pilot health extension workers programme in Opuwo District, also funded by UNICEF, has similar goals of providing basic health services and information to under-served communities.

Malnutrition rates rising

Nhamoinesu Mudadi-Benhura, acting principal medical officer at the Engela District Hospital in hard-hit Ohangwena Region, said that admissions for paediatric malnutrition had increased by 76 percent since March, with 30 cases recorded in June and eight deaths. Nationally, a total of 46 malnutrition-related deaths had been recorded by July this year, but how many of the deaths were directly linked to the drought is difficult to determine.

Namibia is classified as an upper middle-income country by the World Bank, but malnutrition remains a chronic problem in many poor households, with 29 percent of children affected by stunting, according to UNICEF. Children are often only diagnosed after the malnutrition has become severe and follow-up is frequently lacking, said Mudadi-Benhura.

“The problem is support after they leave hospital,” he said. “Even if you give Plumpy’nut [a peanut-based paste used to treat malnutrition], that child has siblings, and it will be shared.”

Mudadi-Benhura noted that the majority of malnourished children admitted to his hospital came from makeshift settlements on the outskirts of towns, where there is no space to grow crops and poor sanitation causes diarrhoea and other illnesses that contribute to the problem.

Riondjovi Mupia, 28, and her three children moved to one such settlement near Opuwo four months ago, when the vegetable patch she had relied on for an income failed due to lack of rain. For a few weeks she earned a small income working in a shop in town, but that job has since ended. There was nothing to feed the children besides a few maize kernels, which she was toasting over a fire when IRIN arrived.

“I registered for food aid, but I haven’t received anything,” she said.

ks/rz source



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