Minister of Information and Communication Technology (MICT), Tjekero Tweya, says government is taking a proactive approach in the fight against poverty and hunger to avoid being caught off-guard should the persistent drought situation reoccur in the future.
Speaking at a media briefing held recently, where he announced several Cabinet decisions, Tweya said poverty eradication will be “streamlined” in the fifth National Development Plan (NDP5) to ensure that no Namibian dies from hunger.
“This obviously comes from the consecutive drought years that we have (experienced) in terms of hunger, we need to continuously review (our programmes) so that we don’t allow any Namibian to die of hunger.” said Tweya.
A 2015 United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) report states that more that 42% of people in Namibia suffer from a lack of adequate nutrition.
Despite being classified by the World Bank as an upper middle-income country, Namibia is currently ranked among four African countries with the highest number of under-nourished people in the world. Zambia, the Central African Republic (CAR) and Malawi were the only other countries in the same category – with levels of malnutrition exceeding 35% of the population.
According to the WFP report, entitled ‘The State of Food Insecurity in the World – 2015: “Heavy reliance on food imports makes Namibia susceptible to high food prices, which increases pressure on vulnerable households’ food security. Low-income earners struggle to meet their minimum daily food intake requirements, as reflected in the fact that 42.3 percent of the population is undernourished.”
The WFP also points out that, according to a Demographic and Health Survey conducted in 2013, a quarter of children in Namibia under the age of five (24 percent) are stunted in their growth due to a lack of adequate nutrition.
To further bolster the fight against poverty, Tweya also indicated that Cabinet approved the proposed ‘Namibia Zero Hunger Strategic Review and Road Map’, which will be “mainstreamed” in NDP5.
“Cabinet further approved the implementation of the Zero Hunger Strategy and Road Map to be coordinated by the Ministry of Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare and to be integrated in the Blueprint on Wealth Redistribution and Poverty Eradication,” noted Tweya.
Moreover Cabinet has decided to revive the National Food Security and Nutrition Council, which was submitted by the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM).
“Cabinet has authorised the Office of the Prime Minister to appoint an inter-agency steering committee with the task to finalise National Food Security and Nutrition policy,” added Tweya.
In the meantime, Cabinet also endorsed the National Alliance for Improved Nutrition (NAFIN) to serve as a technical partner to advocate for nutrition specific interventions.
Tweya also shared information regarding visits that were undertaken by Minister of International Relations and Cooperation (MIRCO), Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, to Serbia and Belarus last year.
As part of the aforementioned visits, MIRCO will start preparing for the visit of Serbian experts to Namibia bearing in mind that the Serbian government “provided full hospitality to the entire Namibian delegation”.
“The Ministry of International Relations and Cooperation to start with the status on updates on all pending agreements and to prepare for the visit of Serbian experts to Namibia,” noted Tweya.
In addition, MIRCO is further expected to brief the Ministries of Agriculture, Water and Forestry (MAWF); Education, Arts and Culture; Higher Education, Training and Innovation; Works and Transport; Trade and SME Development; and the Office of the Speaker of the National Assembly and the Attorney-General (AG) on the outcome of the consultations that took place from the 20 to 28 of October last year.
In the consultations, the MAWF is to explore possibilities of Belarus supplying fertilisers, agricultural equipment and setting up a manufacturing plant through a joint venture with a Namibian partner.
In addition, the Ministry of Higher Education, Training and Innovation has to establish direct contact with the Ministry of Education of Belarus and between higher institutions of both countries.
Also the Ministry of Trade and SME Development is expected to expedite the finalisation of the memorandum of agreement (MoU) on trade and economic cooperation. Similarly, MAWF is expected to finalise a MoU on cooperation in agriculture.
Cabinet approved the report submitted by Nandi-Ndaitwah on the 2nd session of the Namibia/South Africa bi-national commission held in Pretoria, South Africa, on 4-7 October 2016.
Consequently, Cabinet has delegated MIRCO to follow-up on the co-signing of a letter to the Executive Secretary of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) for the placement for a solidarity conference on the “Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic on the agenda of the next SADC Ministerial Committee and to facilitate the commencement of work of the Joint Committee on the Orange River Boundary”.
Furthermore, the Ministry of Finance is set to engage their South African counterparts to “renegotiate” the Double Taxation Agreement.
The idea behind the engagement is to ensure that the Double Taxation Agreement is accelerated and to cooperate with South Africa on retaining the process of signing the amended “Bilateral Monetary Agreement in 2017”, according to Tweya.
According to sources, South Africa is Namibia’s most important economic partner and holds approximately 80% of all investment in the key industries of mining, retail, banking and insurance.
The first-ever monetary bilateral agreement between Namibia and South Africa was signed on 14 September 1993.