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NAMIBIA: UN agencies launch emergency appeal

Photo: IRIN
AIDS has orphaned at 120,000 children
Johannesburg, 10 March 2004 (PlusNews) - The United Nations will need US $5.8 million to help over 600,000 Namibian orphans, vulnerable children and women suffering the combined effects of erratic weather, severe poverty and a worsening HIV/AIDS epidemic.

On Wednesday the World Food Programme (WFP) and UN's Children's Fund (UNICEF) launched an emergency appeal, noting that "tens of thousands of children and their families will face severe difficulties in the coming months, unless international assistance is forthcoming".

WFP regional director for Southern Africa, Mike Sackett, said: "A swift response is needed to contain the crisis and give the government time to build up its capacity during this acute emergency."

According to official figures, more than 640,000 people are in need of food assistance.

WFP is expected to distribute 8,000 mt of food to 111,000 rural children and their families in the six worst-affected northern districts. The food agency has appealed for US $5.2 million to fund emergency operations in Namibia for the next six months, while UNICEF is appealing for US $616,000 to assist some 500,000 people.

The children's agency is expected to bolster efforts by the ministry of health and social services to provide insecticide treated bed nets to prevent malaria, expand immunisation campaigns, undertake Vitamin A distribution and improve nutritional surveillance.

A recent UN mission to Namibia found that acute malnutrition in children under five was as high as 15 percent in some areas.

Per Engebak, Regional Director of UNICEF, said in a statement: "The lingering threat of malnutrition means that this appeal must go beyond food aid. The Namibian government is usually able to assist communities in need, but this current crisis exceeds the government's capacity to respond."

HIV/AIDS is compounding the impact of an already difficult situation on poor households. The southern Africa country has the seventh highest infection rate in the world, with 22 percent of its population living with the virus.

The increase in adult mortality has led to a sharp rise in the number of orphans, the agencies said. At least 120,000 children have lost their parents as a result of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Namibia.

"This joint UN appeal will complement the government's efforts to cope with the drought, and ensure that besides food, the health and nutritional needs of the most vulnerable are met," Sackett added.

Theme (s): Children,

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

Other OCHA Sites
United Nations - OCHA
DFID - UK Department for International Development
Irish Aid
Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation - SDC