Namibia has achieved most of the MDGs targets including reducing poverty level to 28.7% in 2014 compared to 34.9% in 2003/2004. Economic growth has remained stable at an average rate of 4.8 percent over the last decade. Despite these positive indicators, food security remains a challenge for the majority of the rural population.
In 2013, the Emergency Food Security Assessment report indicated that 38 percent of the population was food insecure. The 2013 Global Hunger Index, published by the International Food Policy Research Institute, ranked Namibia at 53 out of 120 countries assessed, with an index score of 18.4, indicating a “serious food problem”.
According to the Demographic Health Survey (DHS 2013), child stunting stands at 24%, with some regions recording rates higher than 30%. The 2015 State of Food Insecurity in the World report revealed that 42.8% of Namibians are undernourished.
Although government-run food assistance and social grants have become an important part of food insecure populations’ coping strategies, the number of people requiring food assistance is not reducing. The 2015 NamVAC Vulnerability Assessment and Analysis (VAA) shows that 580,000 people are in need of survival and livelihood support in 2015/2016 production year.
With this situation, Namibia may not be in a position to meet the commitments made at the Twenty
Third Ordinary Session of the African Union in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea in June 2014 “to eliminate hunger in Africa by 2025”.
Therefore there is a need to understand the factors that put stress on food security in Namibia, the gaps in the national response to food insecurity and the actions required to achieve Zero Hunger in line with Namibia’s development priorities, the Zero Hunger Challenge (ZHC) and the soon to be concluded Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2 “End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture”.
It is within this context that the National Planning Commission (NPC) in collaboration with the Office of the Prime Minister and United Nations (UN) World Food Programme (WFP) launched the Zero Hunger Strategic Review on the 10th of September 2015, at an Inception Meeting in Windhoek, to support national efforts towards eliminating food insecurity and malnutrition.
The Inception meeting was to orientated stakeholders in food and nutrition security about the Zero Hunger Strategic Review, its objectives, methodology and expected outputs/outcomes.
Moreover, the Inception meeting discussed food & nutrition security issues and solicited inputs from food security practitioners that are pertinent to the strategic review research as well as agree on the composition of the Strategic Review Advisory Committee to be soon set up.
During the launch, NPC’s Permanent Secretary emphasized that the war on poverty cannot be won if the majority of the Namibian population is still hungry, hence the need in understanding why government efforts to eradicate poverty are not fully reflected in the food and nutrition security situation in the country.
The Senior Expert for the Strategic Review, Adv. Bience Gawanas, also reiterated the importance of having such Strategic Review at this time when Namibia will soon embark on preparing its fifth National Development Plan (NDP5) and the Mid-Term review of its Vision 2030, noting that the Strategic Review will inform these two important processes.
Adv. Gawanas further explained that the strategic review will help provide answers to the following questions:
- What are the drivers of food insecurity and malnutrition in Namibia?
- What policy and financial frameworks, programmes and strategies have been put in place to address these challenges?
- What are the gaps in existing responses?
- What priority actions are required to fill those gaps in order accelerate progress towards a Namibia without Hunger
- How may these actions be implemented?
She continued to clarify that the Strategic Review was not a duplication of the work that the Namibian Alliance for Improved Nutrition (NAFIN) is doing but is an analytical and consultative exercise that will help identify challenges Namibia is facing in addressing hunger and suggest prioritized areas for action to the Government of Namibia and its development partners.
In her closing remarks, the WFP Country Director, Jennifer Bitonde, expressed her pleasure at the excellent level of coordination by the NPC and also for bringing together stakeholders and subject matter experts to discuss food and nutrition security challenges and raise awareness around food security issues confronting the country.
She also highlighted WFP partnership with the Office of the Prime Minister and how the strategic review initiative is part of the partnership framework where WFP is providing technical assistance to strengthen food security analysis and national food safety net programmes.
The inception meeting was attended by senior government officials from the NPC, MAWF, MOGECW, OPM, MOEAC, MOHSS and NSA and representatives from WFP, FAO, UNICEF, WHO, NAB, NAFIM, UNAM and PON.