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Namibia declares state of emergency as drought bites
by Staff Writers
Windhoek (AFP) May 17, 2013


Namibia's president declared a state of emergency for the whole of the desert-fringed country on Friday, due to a severe drought.

"Namibia has been badly affected by drought due to poor rains," said Hifikepunye Pohamba announced at the State House.

"Our people are facing a crisis of unprecedented proportions as a result of the devastating drought, I declare an emergency situation."

"The drought this year affects the whole country," Pohamba told reporters.

The lack of rain is expected to badly hit crop production, with production in some areas cut in half and staples like maize affected.

An government-sanctioned emergency food security assessment recently predicted "extremely below average production this year," Pohamba added.

"Crops are expected to be 48 percent below average, the outlook for pearl millet is 41 percent lower than last year," he said.

Namibia is the driest country in sub-Saharan Africa.

There have been several droughts in the recent decades.

This week, government started handing out maize meal bags to rural areas in central Namibia.

The government has also announced it will introduce a grazing subsidy, beef up school feeding programmes and increase its food-for-work and cash-for work programmes.

The authorities are also concerned about the plight of the country's spectacular wildlife, which brings in vital tourist dollars.

Pohamba asked the international community for support.

"I appeal to the international community to assist our government in this present crisis situation and its aftermath, assistance in whatever form will be highly appreciated."

If current measures are not successful the government will consider paying farmers to slaughter animals, agriculture minister John Mutorwa told AFP.

According to government figures made available, some 300,000 people of Namibia's 2,1 million population are affected by drought.

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