Angola food crisis: ‘Because of hunger I am here’
With her baby wrapped snugly around her back, Usenia Semaneli braves the Kunene River on foot, supported by nothing but a walking stick. “Crocodiles live in those waters,” she says, “but you stop fearing anything. When you are hungry, you just choose to cross.”
“When I was young, we used to get good rain,” says Usenia, who takes a break from her journey to share her story.
Exactly how many people have made the trek from Angola to Namibia in the last few years is unclear. People have crossed the border for years to visit relatives, buy or sell goods. But in 2020 and 2021 it’s estimated thatat least 3,000 people from Angola were living in various encampments and host communities around border towns in northern Namibia. They came from various parts of Angola and from different tribes, but they tell a similar story. No rain. Failed crops. Livestock gone. A long perilous journey to Namibia.
The troubles began in 2020, as dryness persisted through what would normally be the rainy season, which typically runs from November to April.Many of those most affected are children, lactating mothers, and the elderly. “We ate just a little bit every day, but all the children started to get weak,” says Usenia. “When you spend so many days without food it’s like you are confused. You lose control of your mind and everything is just turning around in front of your eyes.”
We used to walk during the day and at sunset we went to sleep,” saysDeolinda, who made a ten-day trek to Namibia with her granddaughter Venonyaand some other children.
“Food was a big challenge throughout the journey. We didn’t have any food but we had to keep on walking. It was tough for me because I was traveling alone with the children. The journey was difficult, but I received help from people who carried my children… Not knowing whether the baby would survive or even make it, I was hoping for the best but also preparing myself for the worst”, she says.
“When we arrived, Venonya was severely malnourished, so we took her to Outapi Hospital,” says Deolinda. “At first, when I arrived at the hospital I was scared because I feared that the baby would die. It was difficult to even find a vein to put a drip in the child, so I was scared. After a while, my baby got better and I started to feel calmer. We returned to the camp only a week ago with Venonya recovered, she stayed in the hospital for a week and a half.”
“It took us almost ten days traveling, walking,” says Mwandjukatji, who found her way to a camp for migrants close to the town of Omusati, near Namibia’s northwestern border with Angola. “On the way,some of my daughters lost their children. Sometimes when we woke up we tried giving the children some water but they wouldn’t open their mouths, they died on the way. We had to leave them behind.”
They knew the journey would be perilous, but staying in the end was not an option. “For a time, we debated what to do, and for a long while, we refused to leave our land,” she says. “But the hunger was growing unbearable. Because of that hunger, we decided to go to Namibia. We thought maybe we will survive there.”
Mwandjukatji found temporary respite in a shelter she made using sticks, cardboard and plastic. There, she got by on food provided by local agencies and relief groups such as theNamibian Red Cross. “We heard that there was a camp where they were giving food to people like us who came from Angola,” says Mwandjukatji. “We receive some food and that is an enormous relief for us, because if we weren’t here most of our children would die.”
“This shelter is not as strong, not the same, as our home. For our homes, we used to use strong sticks and sand mixed with cow dung, plus we had a fire inside the house. This is not the same. We can’t have a fire inside, and when it rains, the water seeps in. But here we have food at least.”
The migrants saythe kindness of strangers has been critical to their survival, be it local leaders who let them stay on their land, government authorities, the Namibian Red Cross, or local residents who offered various kinds of support. The man in a blue shirt above, named Konguari, ran a garden hose from houseto give out water every evening.
“In Opuwo, it is not uncommon to see people, usually men, coming from Angola looking for work. When I saw many women and children arriving, I knew something wasn’t right. I noticed that, although they were hungry, they were growing desperate for water. Very often they went in the field walking for hours to get wood that they sold in the market. With the money they got from the firewood they immediately bought water. When I saw this, I said to myself, ‘no, this isn’t right. Could it be possible for me to assist these people?’”
A steady source of support
The Namibian Red Cross Society (NRCS)has also been a steady source of support, providing food, water, health and hygiene support. A significant proportion of the people they helped have been children: of the4,027 people assistedin the Etunda and Opuwo areas of Kunene region last year, more than half were between 1 and 16 year old. More than 400 were lactating or pregnant women.
The NRCS is one of numerous Red Cross of Red Crescent National Societies working on the frontlines of climate-related displacement,according to a 2021 climate displacement report by the IFRC. Their work includes responding to crises and building resilience to future shocks by preparing for and reducing climate risks. Around the world, floods, storms, wildfires, landslides, extreme temperatures and drought have caused the displacement of 30.7 million people, according to the report.
“Our government tries its best to help the immigrants from Angola, and different organisations also try to help,” says Rijamekee, a Namibian Red Cross volunteer who lives in Northern Namibia and provides displaced people and vulnerable local residents with food, water, and health and hygiene support. “Anyone, who is out there should try their best to help these people. And not only the Angolans but anyone who is in need”, he says.
Climate change does not affect everyone equally. Children, the elderly, people with physical disabilities and other vulnerable and marginalized people are hit the hardestbecause climate change compounds the challenges they already face. “For the most part I crawled until I reached Namibia,” says Mekondo, who made his way from Angola to Namibia on his hands and knees. “I wore double pants until they peeled and tore at the knees. For my hands I used a pair of sandals so that I could crawl on the pavement.”
“Although I feel well here because I have food, I feel bad for my mother who is still in Angola. I left her under the care of another person, but they were also hungry and were looking for food. I don’t know what to do because I don’t have money and I can’t crawl back all the way through that difficult journey, so I don’t feel well thinking about my mother living there without any food.”
Recent rainfalls have allowed many of the migrants to return to Angola, while others remain in host communities in northern Namibia. But the risk is far from over. The recentrainfalls come late in what is normally the rainy season, and they weren’t nearly enough to sustain a season of crops. But people remain hopeful as many of these 21stcentury climate migrants have missed their homes and always wanted to return as soon as possible.
“I miss home,” says Mwandjukatji. “But the problem is that if we went home we would always be worried about what we were going to eat that day. When the hunger started there we sold our hoes and all the tools that we used to cultivate in order to get food. So now we don’t have those things and if we return we don’t have tools to cultivate. How are we going to get those tools to start again?”
This story was produced and originally published by the Red Cross Red Crescent Magazine. To learn about the Magazine, and to read more stories like this,click here.
Namibia Red Cross
Empress Shôken Fund announces grants for 2020
The Empress Shôken Fund is named after Her Majesty the Empress of Japan, who proposed – at the 9th International Conference of the Red Cross – the creation of an international fund to promote relief work in peacetime. It is administered by the Joint Commission of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the International Committee of the Red Cross, which maintains close contact with the Japanese Permanent Mission in Geneva, the Japanese Red Cross Society and the Meiji Jingu Research Institute in Japan.
The Fund has a total value of over 16 million Swiss francs and supports projects run by National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to benefit their communities in various ways. The first grant was awarded in 1921, to help five European National Societies fight the spread of tuberculosis. The Fund has assisted more than 160 National Societies thus far.
The imperial family, the Japanese government, the Japanese Red Cross and the Japanese people revere the memory of Her Majesty Empress Shôken, and their enduring regard for the Fund is shown by the regularity of their contributions to it.
The grants are usually announced every year on 11 April, the anniversary of her death. This year the announcement is being published earlier owing to the Easter holidays.
The selection process
The Empress Shôken Fund received 36 applications in 2020, covering a diverse range of humanitarian projects run by National Societies in every region of the world. This year the Joint Commission agreed to allocate a total of 400,160 Swiss francs to 14 projects in Argentina, Bulgaria, Greece, Iraq, Lithuania, Montenegro, Namibia, Palestine, Panama, Sierra Leone, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, and Uganda.
The projects to be supported in 2020 cover a number of themes, including first aid, youth engagement and disaster preparedness. Moreover, nearly all of the selected projects seek to strengthen the volunteer base of National Societies, with a view to building on the unique role played by the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement in communities everywhere. The Fund encourages new and innovative approaches that are geared towards learning, so that the broader Movement can benefit from project findings.
The 2020 grants
TheArgentine Red Crosshas launched a generational change in its leadership by promoting volunteers’ access to decision-making bodies. It will use the grant to design and build virtual courses, creating new spaces for dialogue and debate.
For years, the Bulgarian Red Cross has been a major partner of the State in the field of first aid, helping it to respond effectively in a crisis. The National Society will use the grant to reinforce its leadership position by introducing an online first-aid training platform that will facilitate theoretical learning and increase the number of trained first-aiders.
The Hellenic Red Cross seeks to empower local communities in vulnerable or isolated areas. The grant will go towards establishing branch and community disaster teams that will build communities’ resilience through activities and training around disaster risk reduction.
In Iraq, late detection of breast cancer is common and makes the disease much deadlier. To save women’s lives, theIraqi Red Crescent Societywill use the grant to train female volunteers who will raise awareness of early detection methods for breast cancer.
The Lithuanian Red Cross will put the grant towards an innovative digital platform for evaluating the impact of its first-aid courses, issuing and tracking certifications, and connecting with first-aiders after they complete their training.
Young people account for more than 80% of the volunteers of the Red Cross of Montenegro. The National Society will use the grant to improve its activities and services with the aim of strengthening youth participation and raising awareness of volunteer opportunities.
As Namibia’s population grows, first-aid skills and services are more in demand than ever before. The grant will enable the Namibia Red Cross to run intensive first-aid training and certification courses in ten schools.
To better serve the communities it works with, thePalestine Red Crescent Society seeks to build its staff members’ and volunteers’ capacities. It will use the grant to establish a computer lab as a continuing-education unit for all of its staff and volunteers.
In Panama, gang violence has shot up in recent years, and pollution continues to grow owing to a lack of public awareness. The Red Cross Society of Panama will use the grant to develop a series of activities aimed at promoting a culture of peace and environmental responsibility.
Blood transfusion services are an essential component of Sierra Leone’s health-care system. The grant will enable the Sierra Leone Red Cross Society to increase access to safe blood products, especially for pregnant woman and infants.
In Timor-Leste, 70% of the population is under 30 years old, but accessing information about reproductive health can be difficult, particularly in rural areas. The Timor Leste Red Cross will use the grant for a public-awareness and education campaign for young people on reproductive health.
The Tonga Red Cross Society will use the grant to improve students' access to health care and physical activity by using safer vehicles for transportation.
The Trinidad and Tobago Red Cross Society is exploring novel approaches to teaching disaster preparedness and increasing public awareness on the subject. The grant will enable the National Society to use virtual-reality technology to teach the public about the reality and impact of disasters.
In Uganda, 70% of blood donors are students, so the country faces blood shortages outside term time. The Uganda Red Cross Society will use the grant to develop its online recruitment of adult blood donors so as to counteract any seasonal shortfalls during the holidays.
| Press release
Immediate action needed as millions face hunger in Southern Africa, warns the Red Cross
Pretoria/Nairobi/Geneva, 12 December 2019 –Hunger is threatening the lives of 11 million people in Southern Africa due to deepening drought and in the region. Red Cross teams across Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia and Zambia are scaling up their response to emergency and crisis levels of food insecurity.
“This year’s drought is unprecedented, causing food shortages on a scale we have never seen here before,” said Dr Michael Charles, Head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) Southern Africa cluster. “We are seeing people going two to three days without food, entire herds of livestock wiped out by drought and small-scale farmers with no means to earn money to tide them over a lean season.”
The countries with the most significant increase in food insecurity from last year are Zambia and Zimbabwe, with 2.3 million and 3.6 million people respectively suffering from acute food shortages.
Botswana, Lesotho and Namibia have this year declared drought emergencies. In Eswatini, 24 per cent of its rural population is suffering from food shortages. The situation is set to worsen due to late or no rain in the region and crop production is down by 30 percent for the 2019/2020 harvest.
In October, the IFRC launched an Emergency Appeal in Zambia to bring relief to those most affected by the persistent drought and is now widening its appeal for emergency funding to cover a further four countries affected by unprecedented levels of drought and hunger.
The Red Cross Red Crescent Movement already has ongoing operations on food insecurity in Eswatini, Namibia, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe reaching 207,055 people (41,411 households). This newest appeal will broaden its reach to eight southern African countries and will target individuals not reached by other interventions in the region.
“There is a major gap in investment in resilience and community-level capacities in countries hardest hit, including Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Eswatini,” Dr Charles said. “As a humanitarian collective, we must take immediate action to respond to millions who face imminent starvation. Even more importantly, it is our responsibility to strengthen communities’ resilience and ability to adapt to the current challenges. Otherwise, we will never end hunger in the region.”
The IFRC is calling for 7.7 million Swiss francs to mitigate the food crisis in the region. The overall objective of the multi-country Emergency Appeal is to provide immediate food assistance and livelihood recovery support to the most affected households in the targeted communities for a period of 14 months.
Urgent action needed for countries in Southern Africa threatened by drought
All countries in the Southern Africa are currently experiencing pockets of dryness. Worryingly for the sub-region, Angola, Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe have declared state of emergencies due to looming drought. The United Nations Climate Action Summit scheduled for 23 September 2019 in New York, United States of America, presents a timely opportunity for urgent global discussions that will hopefully culminate inconcrete, realistic plans to address thedisproportionate impacts of climate change on developing countries.
Southern Africa is one of the regions most affected by serious impacts of climate-induced natural disasters. This year alone, a succession ofcyclonesandfloodshas already resulted in significant loss of life and assets in Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe, and kept humanitarian organisations busy with emergency responses, as well as recovery and rebuilding efforts.
Tropical cyclones Idai and Kenneth were different in that they managed to attract global attention because they caused significant devastation during a short period. Climate change-induced natural disasters in Southern Africa are often invisible in the global media, even though they are protracted and threaten the livelihoods of millions. Even lower-level cyclones can cause devastating floods that are quickly followed by debilitating droughts.
Many national economies in Southern Africa are agriculturally based and as long as climate change mitigation strategies enshrined in existing globalpoliciesare not wholeheartedly implemented, a significant portion of the 340 million inhabitants of Southern Africa could be food-insecure in the long-term because of famine.
The increased mass movement of people from areas affected by climate-induced natural disasters is also more likely. Internal and external migration will necessitate greater coordination among humanitarian organisations to adequately support receiving communities and countries to respond to the added burden introduced by new arrivals.
The effects of food insecurity and mass movements are felt most by the vulnerable in our communities, such as the chronically ill and disabled, and women and children. They also place immense pressure on already strained health systems in many countries in the sub-region. With the necessary funds, the Red Cross Movement has the capability and is well placed to address some of the consequences. But urgent action is still needed on the climate change question.
Climate change is certain and evident. Its effects are being felt more in less developed nations, especially in southern Africa. Efforts for adaptation are essential not only to decrease the negative consequences but also to increase opportunities for communities to be more resilient in the long-term.
Countries in the sub-region are acting to decrease their response times to calamities and improve their communities’ readiness to mitigate impacts of natural disasters. Mozambique is the first country in Africa to have an Early Action Protocol approved; the protocol harnesses the power offorecast-based financingto ensure that humanitarian responses are more responsive and proactive. Malawi’s protocol is under review and Zambia’s is currently in development.
The need for humanitarian assistance in Southern Africa in the latter part of 2019 and into 2020 will be greater with the imminent drought. Notwithstanding ongoing local efforts to improve countries’ and communities’ disaster risk management practices and increase their resilience, global stakeholders have a responsibility to definitively act to reduce the need for climate change-induced disaster mitigation efforts in the most affected developing countries.
Originally published in the Southern Times Newspaper
Women are the agents of change for climate change in southern Africa
By: Dr Michael Charles
Today South Africa marks Women’s Day. Much like the women being commemorated for the march to the Union Buildings on 9 August 1956, women in southern Africa today may well hold the same flint that lights a “new movement” – climate change.
Southern Africa is one of the regions projected to experience the most serious consequences of global warming and the El Niño effect. In 2019, we experienced one of the worst disasters the region has ever seen - Cyclone Idai ravaged communities in Mozambique, Malawi, and Zimbabwe and continue to rebuild their lives.
Urgent action is needed to increase the region’s preparedness for natural disasters. It is only a matter of time until the next disaster strikes. Being female often automatically means that personal susceptibility to sexual and domestic violence, rape and assault in emergency situations is significantly heightened. Women experience additional difficulties because they are typically responsible for sourcing water and preparing food; caring for children, the injured, sick and elderly; and maintaining family and community cohesion.
Tackling climate change is, undoubtedly, women’s business. They have a vested interest in avoiding and mitigating the impacts of climate change. It is time that humanitarian actors and policy and decision-makers mainstream gender in policy and practice. It is not a “nice to do”; it is crucial to making real and sustainable differences in the lives of affected people.
In 1956, 200,000 South African women declared that enough was enough and acted to defend themselves and the unity and integrity of their families from restrictive laws that required them to carry a pass to reside and move freely in urban areas.
Wathint'Abafazi Wathint'imbokodo! Now you have touched the women, you have struck a rock! was the rallying cry of that day, used to signify the women’s unshakeable and unbreakable resolve in the face of adversity as they marched to the Union Building in Pretoria, and sparked change in the course of South Africa’s history.
As countries in southern Africa ramp up their disaster risk management and humanitarian organisations work to strengthen community recovery and resilience, women in southern Africa should not just be considered victims and survivors who need special protection and assistance. They are forces for change who can be relied on to represent themselves within their communities and at the highest decision-making levels.
I am always inspired by the women I meet responding in disasters, most recently in Cyclone Idai. Women like, Sonia, a volunteer who was working long hours to support women in a shelter, displaced by Cyclone Idai or Flora, who was affected herself by flooding but was dedicated to helping her neighbours rebuild their homes and their lives.
Happy Women’s Day, South Africa. May the flame that was lit in 1956 and the fire of women’s empowerment and participation that was built over the decades rage on.
National Society Investment Alliance: First Funding Announcement
The National Society Investment Alliance (NSIA) today announced the results of its first round of funding, with accelerator investments awarded to the Red Cross Societies of Lebanon and Ukraine, and bridge funding awards made to a further eight National Societies (Armenia, Colombia, Comoros, Malawi, Namibia, Uganda and Zambia). Together this represents a combined total of nearly 1.5 million CHF.
Announcing the results of the first funding round, Co-chairs of the NSIA Steering Committee, Dr. Jemilah Mahmood, Under-Secretary General for Partnerships at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), and Balthasar Staehelin, Deputy Director-General of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said:
“We are delighted to announce this first round of NSIA funding, the culmination of a process that has involved collaboration and cooperation from across the Movement, and demonstrates the demand and potential for investment in National Society capacity.”
To respond to the varied needs of National Societies, NSIA can award up to one million Swiss francs of accelerator funding to any one National Society over a five-year period. In addition, bridge grants of up to 50,000 Swiss francs over 12 months can help National Societies prepare the ground for future investment from NSIA or elsewhere.
To date, NSIA has been supported by generous contributions from the governments of Switzerland, The United States, and Canada.
First Round of NSIA Funding
The first call for proposals received 48 applications from National Societies across all regions, with a range of contextual challenges and organizational development needs. In response, the NSIA Office conducted an independent and objective process of consultation and review, working with colleagues from the IFRC and the ICRC at the national and regional level, as well as the National Societies themselves.
The Steering Committee agreed that the first 10 National Societies that will receive bridge funding are: Armenia, Colombia, Comoros, Lebanon, Malawi, Namibia, Nigeria, Uganda, Ukraine and Zambia. Lebanon and Ukraine will receive the accelerator funding in this first round.
The proposals from National Societies speak to a wide-range of needs, and are underlined by the desire to increase their sustainability, independence and ability to provide relevant services to vulnerable populations. Key themes across the applications include: efforts to increase financial sustainability, develop system and structures at the national and branch level, and improve governance and accountability.
Selected National Societies
The Lebanese Red Cross will use a substantial accelerator investment grant to strengthen its Project Monitoring Evaluation and Reporting (PMER), communications, and fundraising capacity with the aim of meeting more than 70% of its core services costs through local sources by 2023.
Similarly, the Ukrainian Red Cross Society will utilise an accelerator investment to develop its resource mobilization capacities, building on initial planning and analysis and helping the National Society respond to the ongoing crisis in the country.
The bridge grant will support the Armenian Red Cross Society to develop a resource mobilization plan, focusing on un-earmarked income generation that is urgently required to meet ARCS programmatic activity needs.
The Colombian Red Cross Society will receive bridge funding to help develop, test and implement new initiatives which will ensure regular income, strengthening the National Society in three crosscutting areas: communication and marketing, reporting and training.
There is a need for the Comoros Red Crescent to enhance staff core competencies with regard to governance and financial management. The bridge grant will therefore allow the development of an investment plan for the National Society to best use potential future investment.
NSIA bridge grant funding will enable the Malawi Red Cross Society to conduct a thorough and detailed assessment of potential national level income sources, subsequently developing an investment proposal to pursue the most promising.
It is expected that through the bridge grant implementation, the Namibia Red Cross will be able to resolve a number a of critical challenges by consolidating its financial statements and systems, increasing financial liquidity and developing a forward-looking strategy.
The Nigerian Red Cross Society will receive bridge funding to help explore the opportunities for developing commercial first aid services in the country, conducting a detailed analysis and developing a business plan for future investment.
The Uganda Red Cross Society will receive bridge funding to work with its operational network of 51 branches to consolidate and improve its first aid training, and explore the possibility to unlock this resource and generate national level income.
With several institutional changes needed within the Zambia Red Cross Society in order to achieve its development goals, a bridge grant will allow the ZRCS to undertake a midterm review of its existing strategic plan and developed and improved strategic and investment plan looking forward.