Women and children rights advocate Graca Machel has commended the Namibian government or its efforts to eliminate gender inequality at all levels of society.
Speaking during her recent visit to the Prime Minister’s Office, Machel congratulated Premier Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila for occupying one of the highest offices in the country.
“I would like to congratulate you, the government and the party which is in power for taking seriously the pledge of creating opportunities for women of talent and expertise to occupy the rightful place in society,” said Machel.
Machel also took the opportunity to wish Kuugongelwa-Amadhila the best during her tenure in office and expressed hope that positive changes will take place in the country.
“We are happy as Africans to celebrate your success and more importantly that while you are there important changes will take place to show that women leadership, skills and style bring change,” added Machel.
Machel was in Namibia on a three-day visit and is accompanied by United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) regional director for Eastern and Southern Africa, Leila Pakkala.
During her stay, Machel assessed the progress made by government in terms of early childhood development and nutrition of the Namibian children fulfilling a promise made in 2012.
“We will have childhood development programmes in two streams, one is nutrition and another is early childhood development,” added Machel. Speaking at the same event, Kuugongelwa-Amadhila said, despite facing an array of developmental challenges, the government was committed to enhancing and improving the livelihood of Namibians. Kuugongelwa-Amadhila further said that high levels of poverty and unemployment have led to malnutrition among children in Namibia.
“Government has decided to tackle these challenges head-on and work with the international community in order to optimise our impact,” said Kuugongelwa-Amadhila.
Reports suggests that Namibia has made improvements in the reduction of deaths and illness due to common childhood illnesses, including malnutrition. Media reports have indicated that deaths among children under five have significantly dropped from 4 200 per year in 1990 to less than 3 000 in 2013, while the maternal mortality ratio has declined from 449 per 100 000 live births to 385 per 100 000 live births over the same period.
Moreover, a special dinner for Machel was hosted by former Prime Minister Nahas Angula, who stood in for Kuugongelwa-Amadhila, to further discuss the issue of malnutrition and early childhood development.
Angula acknowledged that malnutrition is a serious challenge in Namibia. “There is widespread (of malnutrition) in Namibia with 1-in-4 children under five years short for their age and underweight,” noted Angula.
According to Angula, Namibia’s food insecurity is mainly linked to structural poverty compounded by high HIV/AIDS prevalence rates and recurrent natural disasters where cyclical drought and floods severely affect people’s livelihoods.
In a bid to curb malnutrition among learners, the Government runs several school feeding programmes. In 1996, only 78 000 children were enrolled into the programme, 20 years later the programme’s reach has more than quadrupled. By 2015, the number of learners countrywide that benefited from mid-morning meals under the NSFP stood at 336 137 of which 13 637 were pre-primary learners. The geographical targeting of school feeding is well coordinated, as the schools with high food insecurity and HIV/AIDS prevalence rates are being reached. The programme relies on local food purchases and has institutional arrangements for implementation.