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Gov’t steps in with food aid

Publishing Date : 12 August, 2019

Author : LAWRENCE PAGANGA

The Botswana government has come to the immediate humanitarian assistance of 38.300 food insecure and vulnerable people through the provision of food baskets, cash and clothing following poor harvests due to low rains experienced this year.


The figure for the food insecure and vulnerable people is 9.3 percent higher compared to last year.  Rainfall distribution in the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) region including Botswana was very poor this year and the least recorded in the region since 1981.  Temperatures were also above normal resulting in poor harvests with some farmers failing to plant any crops or the planted crops failing to germinate in some areas.
 

These statistics are contained in the latest SADC Food Security Report; “The 2019 Synthesis Report on the State of Food and Nutrition Security in Southern Africa”.  However, according to the regional body’s report, Botswana is the only country in the southern Africa region that was not seeking food aid from international aid agencies and partners.  “The number of people permanently and temporarily destitute stands at 38.300, which is higher than the previous year.  All these beneficiaries are assisted by the government with food baskets, cash and clothing,” the report said.
 

SADC noted that the aid to the vulnerable citizens, provided by the Botswana government, was due to the severe drought being experienced in the country and the entire southern African region.  “A strong drought affected central and western parts of the region during the 2018/19 rainfall season.  Large parts of southern Angola, northern and southern Botswana, northern Namibia, north-western South Africa, southern and western Zambia, and north-western Zimbabwe received their lowest rainfall totals since at least 1981,” the SADC report reads.
 


Botswana, Angola, Zimbabwe and Namibia, have since declared national drought emergencies in their respective countries.  This year’s rains were delayed and erratic, resulting in reduced area of planted crop, poor germination and wilting of crops. Poor grazing and water conditions are also affecting livestock production.  An estimated 41.2 million people in 13 SADC member states are as a result food insecure.
 

“Pervasive drought contributed to reduced cereal harvests and the associated high food and nutrition insecurity. Cereal production decreased in each of the 10 member states that provided data,” noted SADC.  Meanwhile, according to the same SADC report, the percentage of children underweight in Botswana has increased by 4.3 percent and the government was also feeding the young children in needy districts with special nutritional food baskets.  “Despite the prevalence of stunting decreasing in some member states, the change is not fast enough to keep pace with population growth and reduce the number of stunted children.”
 

SADC attributed malnutrition, (wasting – being too thin for your height) among children under the age of five years, to the quality of diets, which is very low due to the consumption of monotonous diets, lack of knowledge on appropriate feeding practices and uninformed behavioural patterns.  “Overweight or obesity is also a growing challenge in the region.  The prevalence of overweight in four SADC member states (Botswana – 11.2 percent, Comoros – 10.6 percent, Seychelles – 10.2 percent and South Africa – 13.3 percent), reveals an emerging problem,” SADC announced.


For immediate solutions to the crises, SADC said there was need to prioritise the emergency establishment or rehabilitation of community watering points for livestock and crops.  “Shock-responsive social safety nets should be scaled up to protect the vulnerable from recurrent severe climate-related shocks.  Special attention must be paid to address the additional burdens faced by women and girls.”
 

As a medium to long term solution in mitigating the effects of drought and malnutrition in the region, SADC encouraged member states to adopt crop and dietary diversity through growing and consumption of diversified crops and diets, including indigenous foods.  “In the long term, plan for the expansion of the social services closer to the people. Develop resilience-building initiatives, including employment creation in rural areas, incorporating climate smart technologies in subsidies and conservation agriculture,” SADC recommends in its report.

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