30% of Namibians go hungry

Global food insecurity rises alarmingly
It is more urgent than ever to tackle the root causes of food crises rather than just responding after they occur, a new report says.
Ellanie Smit
Almost 30% of the Namibian population experienced acute food insecurity during the lean season of December 2021 to March 2022.

According to the 2022 Global Report on Food Crises recently published by the by the Global Network Against Food Crises (GNAFC), the number of people facing acute food insecurity and requiring urgent life-saving food assistance and livelihood support continues to grow at an alarming rate. Around 193 million people in 53 countries, including Namibia, experienced acute food insecurity at crisis or worse levels (IPC Phase 3-5) in 2021.

This represents an increase of nearly 40 million people compared with the already record numbers of 2020 and makes it more urgent than ever to tackle the root causes of food crises rather than just responding after they occur, the report says.

The report focuses on those countries and territories where the magnitude and severity of the food crisis exceed the local resources and capacities. In these situations, the mobilisation of the international community is necessary. It indicates that 0.75 million people in Namibia were in crisis or worse between December last year and March 2022.

All regions were classified in Crisis (IPC Phase 3), excluding Otjozondjupa, which was in Stressed (IPC Phase 2). In the regions of Kavango East and Ohangwena, 50% of the population was in Crisis or worse (IPC Phase 3 or above).

In 2021, Namibia qualified as having a major food crisis for the first time, as the number of people in Crisis or worse rose from 441 000 during the October 2020 to March 2021 lean season to around 750 000 by the following lean season during December 2021 to March 2022, the report says.

Food insecurity in Namibia during 2021 was driven by a slow recovery from the 2019 nationwide drought, rainfall deficits and drought in 2021, food price increases and the impact of COVID-19 restrictive measures on supply chains and livelihoods.

The root causes

Worrying trends of food crises globally are the result of multiple drivers feeding into one another, ranging from conflict to environmental and climate crises, from economic to health crises with poverty and inequality as underlying causes.

Conflict remains the main driver of food insecurity. While the analysis predates Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the report finds that the war has already exposed the interconnected nature and fragility of global food systems, with serious consequences for global food and nutrition security.

Countries already coping with high levels of acute hunger are particularly vulnerable to the risks created by the war in Eastern Europe, notably due to their high dependency on imports of food and agricultural inputs and vulnerability to global food price shocks, it notes.

The findings of the report demonstrate the need for a greater prioritisation of smallholder agriculture as a frontline humanitarian response, to overcome access constraints and as a solution for reverting negative long-term trends. Furthermore, promoting structural changes to the way external financing is distributed, so that humanitarian assistance can be reduced over time through longer-term development investments, can tackle the root causes of hunger.

In parallel, we need to collectively promote more efficient and sustainable ways of providing humanitarian assistance. Likewise, strengthening a coordinated approach to ensure that humanitarian, development and peacekeeping activities are delivered in a holistic and coordinated manner, and ensuring and avoiding further fuelling conflict as an unintended consequence will also contribute to resilience building and recovery.