One million Namibians hungry

The number of Namibians facing food insecurity has doubled since 2006, a new report shows.

13 September 2018 | Agriculture

Global statistics released this week indicate that food insecurity affected one million Namibians by last year, compared to 500 000 in 2006.

Almost a quarter of Namibia's population were severely food insecure by 2017, with an overall food insecure prevalence of 39.8% among the country's population. The prevalence of undernourishment in Namibia is also higher than the African average and stands at 25.4%, affecting 600 000 people. The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2018 report also indicated that Africa remains the continent with highest prevalence of undernourishment, affecting 21% of its population, which is more than 256 million people.

It said that for the third year in a row, there had been a rise in world hunger. The absolute number of undernourished people - those facing chronic food deprivations - increased to nearly 821 million by 2017, from around 804 million in 2016.

“These are levels from almost a decade ago,” By 2017, 7.5% of children under five in the world - about 50.5 million - were affected by wasting (low weight compared to height), consequently putting them at a higher risk of mortality.

The statistics indicate that in Namibia 7.1% of children under five were affected by wasting - about 100 000. Concern was also expressed over the fact that overweight children and especially adult obesity is on the increase. In Namibia, the prevalence of obesity in adults was 15% and affects 200 000 people, while in children the prevalence rate was 12.9%, affecting less than 100 000 children.

According to the report new evidence highlights that climate variability and extremes are a key force behind the rise in global hunger. This also among the leading causes of severe food crises.

The number of extreme climate-related disasters, including extreme heat, droughts, floods and storms, have doubled since the early 1990s, with an average of 213 of these events occurring every year during the period of 1990 to 2016.

“These harm agricultural productivity, contributing to shortfalls in food availability, with knock-on effects causing food price hikes and income losses that reduce people's access to food.”

The report says that in many areas, climate extremes have increased in number and intensity, particularly where average temperatures are shifting upwards.

It says very hot days are becoming more frequent and the hottest days are becoming hotter. Extreme heat is associated with increased mortality, lower labour capacity, lower crop yields and other consequences that undermine food security and nutrition.

In addition to increasing temperatures and changes in rainfall, the nature of rainy seasons is also changing, specifically the timing of seasonal climate events.

The report notes that food insecurity and nutrition indicators can clearly be associated with an extreme climate event, such as severe drought, which critically challenges agriculture and food production.

It adds that of all natural hazards, floods, droughts and tropical storms affect food production the most. Drought, in particular, causes more than 80% of the total damage and losses in agriculture, especially for the livestock and crop production subsectors.

“Severe droughts are worsening global hunger and reversing progress already made.”

However, hunger is significantly worse in countries with agricultural systems that are highly sensitive to rainfall and temperature variability and severe drought, where the livelihood of a high proportion of the population depends on agriculture and where the country does not have in place sufficient support measures to counter the fallout.

“In other words, for almost 36% of the countries that experienced a rise in undernourishment since 2005, this coincided with the occurrence of severe agricultural drought.”


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