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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Millions at risk from drought

ELCA works with Lutheran partners in Angola, Namibia

My brother does not have a job, the animals and crops do not survive and I barely have food for the children,” said Magdaline (no last name given). The 65-year-old traveled four days and nearly 100 miles from her village to Mariental in south-central Namibia in August. She went to collect her $93 a month government pension — all that she, her brother and his four children, including David, 6 months, have to live on. 

Traveling in an open horse carriage, they slept each night on the roadside despite the chill. August is Namibia’s winter season, when temperatures often drop below freezing. 

In the Omusati region of northern Namibia, Makala sat in the heat under one of her family’s pawpaw trees, her baby on her lap and her other children scattered around as she extracted seeds from a pumpkin.

Pumpkins require less water than other crops, and their seeds, skin and flesh can be eaten. Yet the income from their pawpaws and pumpkins isn’t enough to feed the family. Usually they eat millet during the hungry months until the next rains. But with too little rain, the millet didn’t grow this year. Makala doesn’t know how she’ll feed her family before the rains hopefully come in December. 

About 800,000 Namibians (more than 1 in 3) are affected by the country’s worst drought in nearly 30 years. Both small farmers and workers on commercial farms are suffering. In this country of 2.1 million (including about 900,000 Lutherans), the unemployment rate is around 37 percent and inequality of wealth is among the highest in the world. Nearly one-third of children under 5 are stunted from chronic malnutrition due to poverty — a number likely to increase with the drought.  

Namibian President Hifikepunye L. Pohamba declared a state of national emergency in May 2013 and allocated $2 million for relief. But after several years of heavy rains and flooding, followed by a year of drought, outside intervention is needed.


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