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Namibia suffers worst drought in a generation

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
July 19th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Usually sub-Saharan Africa's driest country, Namibia is suffering the worst drought in a generation. More than 100,000 children at risk of malnutrition, the United Nations says.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Namibian President Hifkepunye Pohamba has since declared a national emergency. The sparsely populated southern African nation suffered crop failures in May and has earmarked $20 million of relief for the worst-hit households.

Many farmers are now being forced to sell cattle for which there is no grazing. In the meantime, cow-herds from Angola have crossed the border in search of food, inflaming tribal tensions as competition for scarce pastures grows.

"The shortages of food and water are increasing the immediate threat of disease and malnutrition," Micaela Marques De Sousa, the Namibia representative of UNICEF says.

"But anecdotal reports already indicate children are dropping out of school, a clear sign of stress and vulnerability in families."

Winning independence from neighboring South Africa in 1990, Namibia classifies as a middle-income country although a quarter of its two million people live in poverty.

While agriculture accounts for five percent of the economy, a third of Namibians are dependent on some form of subsistence farming.

Following a prolonged dry period during the 2012/13 cropping season (November-June), Namibia's main cereal crop output for 2013 is expected to suffer a severe decline. In some parts, the cumulative rains between January and March were approximately one-third of the average and a 50 percent below average cereal production is expected. Livestock conditions are also deteriorating due to lack of water.

The Namibia National Farmers Union, or NNFU has voiced concern over the looming drought in a statement issued yesterday.

"The NNFU expresses its profound concern on the national natural drought disaster due to poor rainfall. Despite hopes and forecasts as reported by the Weather Bureau of possible rain showers, it is now ... obvious that Namibia will be experiencing a profound drought situation," the statement read.

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