UN signs $44.7 million development assistance framework

The UN signed a second development assistance framework (UNDAF) of US $44.7 million with Namibia this week to intensify support for the fight against HIV/AIDS, food insecurity and improving social service delivery over the next five years.

"We have identified these three areas as 'triple threats' together with the Namibian government," said UN Country Representative Simon Nhongo. "Intensive negotiations since last year culminated in this UNDAF and the completion of the Common Country Assessment (CCA), which also involved civil society and other development partners."

The CCA is a development report identifying the most critical challenges facing the country.

"A new kind of humanitarian crisis is emerging in Namibia, which is a complex triad consisting of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, deepening food insecurity and a hollowing out of capacity on national, community and household levels," the CCA report said.

External shocks, like drought and floods experienced by Namibia during 2002 and 2003, had interrupted the country's development, the report noted. Due to the toll of HIV/AIDS, recovery took much longer.

"This crisis in Namibia is fuelled by existing poverty and inadequate essential public services and as the AIDS epidemic worsens, it brings in new patterns of food insecurity, destitution and greater vulnerability," said the CCA.

The government's free antiretroviral treatment programme only reaches 17,000 people, but about 230,000 Namibians are HIV positive; the northeastern Caprivi Region has the highest HIV prevalence rate of 43 percent.

In 2003 some 600,000 Namibians, one-third of the total population, were identified as being in need of humanitarian assistance. More recent figures indicate that 40 percent of Namibia's population of 1.83 million live below the poverty line and are exposed to "chronic food insecurity", according to the UN.

A major obstacle to development lies in Namibia's international classification as a 'lower middle-income country', according to Helmut Angula, director-general of Namibia's National Planning Commission (NPC), which coordinates development programmes and donor aid.

"Donor aid from individual countries to Namibia after 15 years of independence is now decreasing," Angula told IRIN. "If Namibia's status could be changed to a least-developed country, we could cope better and would qualify for more grants and aid." Namibia obtained its independence in 1990.

According to Angula, the historic legacy of colonialism and apartheid was still severely affecting every aspect of society and its performance in meeting national and Millennium Development Goals.

"Only urban areas were developed under South African rule, and the rural areas were declared native reserves and homelands, where hardly any infrastructural and other development took place. To make these areas catch up with urban development standards is mammoth task," he commented.

In the 2005 Human Development Report published this week, Namibia improved its position on the Human Development Index by one place to 125 out of 170 countries, up from 126 in 2004.