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NAMIBIA: More people in need as drought worsens

johannesburg, 14 August 2003 (IRIN) - Some 400,000 people may be in need of general food aid distributions in drought-hit Namibia, the country's Emergency Management Unit (EMU) told IRIN on Thursday.

Gabriel Kangowa, deputy director of the EMU, said that "this year's drought is more severe than last year's" and the number of people in need of aid had risen.

Last year around 345,000 Namibians required food aid, which the government was able to provide without making an appeal for international assistance.

Kangowa said he would be handing a report on the current situation to the cabinet on Tuesday and they would deliberate on how best to respond.

"There might be a need for us to appeal - depending on our own resources - but that decision will be taken by cabinet," Kangowa said.

The EMU had planned for a "free food distribution programme to all drought-affected communities ... We are still receiving figures from the regions, but we think it may be about 400,000 people affected," Kangowa added.

Meanwhile, the government's flood relief aid to communities in the northeastern Caprivi region was coming to an end, he noted. Some 12,000 people in 22 villages were affected by the flooding, which occurred in May after a period of prolonged torrential rainfall in the Democratic Republic of Congo caused the banks of the Zambezi river to burst downstream in Namibia.

"The situation [in the Caprivi] is 95 percent back to normal, [but] we still have some places that cannot be accessed by road. Those are places still surrounded by muddy areas - you cannot drive through by truck, and there's no water, so you can't use boats. There are some places the 4x4 trucks cannot negotiate, so we've been flying food to those areas - but the distribution of food aid has come to an end," Kangowa said.

He added that "the non-food items from the Red Cross and other donors are still being distributed but will be finished soon".

Because the flooding had destroyed crops in the region, the government was providing the affected communities in the Caprivi with agricultural inputs for the coming cropping season.

"We bought seeds from a company in South Africa, 90 mt of maize seed, which is already on the way. I talked to the company this morning and they say the first truck might arrive Friday or Saturday in Katima [Mulilo, the provincial capital]," Kangowa said.

He explained that the early arrival of inputs was critical as the "planting season runs from mid-July up to the end of this month, so they [should be able to] plant and produce their own food".

"We also bought sorghum from a local cooperative, 10 mt of sorghum, which will be picked up probably next week and taken to Katima so they can start planting," Kangowa added.

He noted that while "the assistance relating to the floods has come to an end, these people will also be included in general food distributions [because of] the ongoing drought in this country".

Theme (s): Food Security, Natural Disasters,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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