By: Ketemba Tjipepa
Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) leader McHenry Venaani has stated that with over N$100 million spent on the drought relief programme in Namibia, the food distributed to the needy should offer better dietary options that do not pose health problems.
Venaani, who is the leader of the official opposition, stated that upon examining the food distributed to those in need, one would conclude that their health is at risk. He stated that people in Namibia are dying of hunger, and he also expressed concern about the speed at which drought relief is being distributed. He emphasised the need to address this issue.
"Who decides on the dietary combination of the drought relief food, because the food that we give the poor is not even the food we eat in our own homes. And I am saying of course due to the cost we might not be able to fill all the gaps but to give a family that has not eaten probably for the last six months of the year, maize, sometimes cooking oil, canned fish and beans; less sugar, less anything. We are talking about N$1 billion to feed 600 000 people, now if you are spending a billion to feed 600 000 Namibians and the food that we are buying is that kind of food then I want to know who is the middleman who is over-profiting from this food," says Venaani.
Venaani recommends that the government conduct a review of the type of food provided to people who are facing food insecurity. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations' latest report, about 1.5 million people could not afford a healthy diet in 2021 and 2022.
"If you look at food distributed to the needy. It is a health hazard to many of them, it can even cause constipation to many of them. Let’s look at the nutritional cost of this kind of food. I agree with what honourable Muharukua is saying; the reason why we are spending billions on food, is because of the collapse of a lack of mechanised agricultural industry," said Venaani.
In addition, Landless People's Movement (LPM), president Bernadus Swartbooi has suggested that to mitigate the problem of hunger in Namibia, the government should allocate a strong budget, enough to create more job opportunities in the country. Swartbooi explained that if there are jobs available, then hunger would be a thing of the past.
Furthermore, Swartbooi proposes that the government should also consider distributing drought food relief in urban areas. This is because people often migrate to cities in search of better lives after losing their jobs elsewhere. In April this year alone, Cabinet directed the Office of the Prime Minister to extend the drought relief program valued at N$121 million to Kunene and parts of Erongo as well as Omusati in response to the looming drought in the country.