15. August 2015

Geingob leads anti-poverty indaba

President Hage Geingob, the country’s anti-poverty crusader, is expected to launch the long-awaited poverty and wealth distribution indaba today. The event will be opened by Basic Income Grant (BIG) proponent and Minister of Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare Zephania Kameeta.
“It will be a high-level event attended by cabinet ministers. The United Nations will also give its perspective on poverty,” said I-Ben Nashandi, the ministry’s permanent secretary.

According to Nashandi, the launch will be followed by a series of regional consultations with community members, traditional and local authority leaders. The purpose of these meetings is to gain understanding of the needs of Namibians and to determine the measures needed to mitigate poverty. “We want to formulate workable solutions to address poverty, therefore we need to engage the communities,” said Nashandi.
He said the ground-breaking ceremony for the Food Bank will take place soon. Nashandi, accompanied by Ministry of Works and Transport head of Architecture Mwiitumwa Mungandi, yesterday visited the 5 000-square-metre piece of land opposite the Katutura State Hospital where the Food Bank will be built. The building will consist of a warehouse and offices, said Nashandi. He emphasised that no food will be distributed from the building. Distribution will be done through non-governmental organisations that will be identified.
Nashandi pointed out that food distribution would be strictly monitored in order to avoid corruption or mismanagement.

Earlier this year Kameeta warned that if poverty is not urgently addressed, it could lead to violence. In June, Kameeta said his ministry was considering introducing a basic income grant for poor Namibians who do not benefit from state pensions or social grants for the disabled and orphans. He said that could only be finalised after the national dialogue on poverty, adding that his ministry was finalising a concept paper on the issue.
Kameeta also confirmed that President Geingob had “mentioned” the implementation of BIG. This followed a challenge by the Basic Income Grant Coalition to the government to implement the BIG.

Pastor Wilfred Diergaardt, chairperson of the BIG Coalition, insisted that such a grant is a critical option to fight poverty. According to him hope was created among poor communities when Kameeta, who has been at the forefront of the BIG grant fight, was appointed to head the poverty ministry. “We believe communities will give their insight and hopefully their call to have a grant will be answered,” said Diergaardt.

Deputy Prime Minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah last week said a quarter of the Namibian population would go hungry until March next year. That statement was based on the findings of the Poverty Mapping Report, launched by the National Planning Commission (NPC) in April, which said more than 500 000 Namibians live on less than N$12 a day.
The report indicated that the largely rural northern regions of Kavango, Oshikoto, Zambezi, Kunene and Ohangwena remain the poorest in the country, with more than one third of their populations classified as poor.
In Kavango, more than half of the population is classified as poor, which represents 21% of the close to 570 000 poor people nationwide. Ohangwena and Oshikoto account for 15% and 14% of the nation’s poor, respectively.
But the study maintained that at the end of a ten-year period - covering 2001 to 2011 - 125 000 people were lifted out of poverty.
It also noted that the Epupa Constituency in the Kunene Region remains the poorest of the country’s 121 constituencies, with 69% of the population living below the poverty line of N$12 a day.
According to the report, in 15 of the 20 poorest constituencies, more than half of the population is considered poor. (Namibian Sun, Windhoek)

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