Read this article in: Français

NAMIBIA: Lack of funds deepens the plight of orphans

The plight of orphans in Namibia is set to worsen after an announcement this week that the authorities would be unable to disburse a monthly social grant due to insufficient funds.

Minister of Women Affairs and Child Welfare Netumbo Ndaitwah told IRIN on Thursday that "there were too many orphans to be able to pay grants" this year.

"The 2001 National and Population Census showed that there about 115,000 orphans in the country. We suspect that this number has increased quite a bit, but even if we work with the 2001 figure, we still do not have the money to pay the monthly grants," Ndaitwah confirmed.

She noted that last year the government had provided US $1.5 million for an orphan's fund, but the "necessary mechanisms were not put in place" and the fund had not become operational.

"Because there has not been any allocation for the orphan fund this year, it does not mean that orphans will not receive any assistance. The ministry will continue to provide close to 20,000 children and families with maintenance and foster care allowances. We will try to reach as many orphans with the allocation we received in the existing budget," Ndaitwah added.

The ministry had also appealed for public contributions to support their efforts. Unlike other government agencies, the orphan fund can provide immediate assistance to children in extremely vulnerable situations.

"Getting aid to orphans can, in some cases, take a long time. In order for families to receive the foster care allowance, there is quite a bit of bureaucracy. But the orphan fund is expected to be more flexible, which means we will tackle emergencies immediately. If a child is discovered to have lost both parents and is in need, we can act straight away and provide the basic necessities such as food, clothes, uniforms and school fees," Ndaitwah explained.

The announcement is likely to put an additional strain on NGOs working with orphans in the country. Father Rick Bauer of the Windhoek-based Catholic AIDS Action told IRIN that "NGOs were already financially strapped" and needed "the government's assistance".

"It is disappointing that the money is not available, especially since the number of orphans will continue to increase. More needs to be done so that these children don't become neglected," Bauer said.

He stressed that food assistance and access to education were often the chief concerns of orphaned children.

According to the UN Children's Fund, an estimated 97,000 children in Namibia are without parents, 12 percent of which have been orphaned by HIV/AIDS.

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