Namibia is ranked 70th out of 107 countries with sufficient data to calculate the Global Hunger Index, 2020. With a score of 19.1, Namibia has a level of hunger that is moderate. Poverty is multidimensional and Namibia is progressing in her fight to alleviate and eradicate it. While the Government’s intention is not to create a culture of dependency, Government has the dual responsibility to take care of the needy, while creating an enabling environment where those with ability can prosper. The value and coverage of the monthly Old Age Social Grant and the coverage for the full basket of social safety nets have been increased substantially over the HPPI period, which is characterised as a period of greater redistribution despite subdued economic growth. More than 400,000 Namibians have been lifted out of severe poverty, since Independence. The Food Bank was rolled out across all regions, reaching 42,081 Namibians while the Drought Relief Programme reached over 2,8 million Namibians cumulatively, over the period. Rural agricultural extension services provided seeds and implements to assist subsistence crop-producing farmers.
While aforementioned measures have had a positive impact on reducing poverty in general and hunger poverty in particular, the COVID-19 pandemic has reversed some of the gains made. According to the October 2020 Socio-Economic Impact Assessment of COVID-19 in Namibia, overall poverty is expected to increase by an estimated 4.2% as a result of loss of income. This will leave approximately 105,600 more Namibians vulnerable and in urgent need of social protection (including 45,400 children/dependants).
Housing is the most intimate setting of every Namibian family and potentially its most valuable asset. The delivery of urban land and housing is an urgent undertaking, that involves overlapping stakeholders, markets and legal systems for accessing land, finance, services like water, electricity, sewerage and eventual construction. Overall, providing adequate shelter and sanitation remains one of the most daunting challenges. Approximately 230,000 households continue to live in shacks countrywide, while the ongoing rural-urban migration adds to this number daily. During HPPI, the two (2) ordinances and bodies (Namibia Planning and Advisory Board and Townships Board) that govern and advise on spatial planning in Namibia (NAMPAB) were replaced with the Urban and Regional Planning Act, 2018 (Act No. 5 of 2018) and the Urban and Regional Planning Board respectively.
The new law provides for the decentralisation of certain planning functions to LAs, significantly decongesting bureaucratic bottlenecks and unlocking turnaround times for the proclamation of new townships. Once a town plan has been developed and a township proclaimed, LAs may grant permission (issue certificates) to occupy.
The certificates to occupy offer security of tenure and permit residents to occupy and construct permanent structures on the allocated erven. In the medium to long term, the certificates will be converted into formal title deeds. The provision of housing alone does not guarantee a dignified standard of living and must be supportive of livelihoods as well. Hence, upgrading of informal settlements and development of new residential areas will make provision for mixed developments including business erven and public services such as health and education services.
The existing housing stock and associated value chains suffer from cumbersome processes, embedded building standards, land-use and planning, which HPPII aims to address.
HPPI focused on maternal and infant mortality, including morbidity and infectious diseases. Despite a high HIV/ AIDS burden with an adult prevalence of 12.8%, Namibia has exceeded the 90-90-90 targets and is progressing in the fight against HIV/AIDS. During HPPI, the country reduced the under-five-year-old mortality rate from 22,500 in 2010 to less than 17,000 in 2020. The maternal mortality rate declined from 355 to 195 per 100,000 live births between 2013 to date. In addition to the targeted national response to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government has sustained public investments for other diseases such as Hepatitis E, cancer, diabetes and kidney disease. The share of stunted and wasted children remains high at 23.7% and 6.2% respectively, while the number of wasted and severely wasted children between age zero to 59 months increased between 2016 and 2019, which is attributable to hunger poverty. Improving child nutrition is a long term investment in human capital, which has a triple dividend for the children of today, the adults of tomorrow and the next generation of children. Outside of the public service, only one out of four employees are covered by medical aid on average, highlighting the necessity of national health insurance as a social safety net. The Government will increase public health infrastructure to enhance access to health facilities.
While substantial progress has been made on TVET, the country continues to face significant backlogs in educational facilities. Five thousand one hundred sixty-nine (5,169) additional classrooms are required countrywide, while most schools also require hostel facilities. The COVID-19 pandemic further highlighted the shortage of basic infrastructure such as water, sanitation, electricity and internet at schools. These are gaps which threaten to undermine Namibia’s efforts to reducing poverty and income inequality. More than 10,000 learners drop out of school annually, with two out of three out of school learners coming from rural areas, with no apparent decline between 2014 and 2019.
Approximately 1,920 (89.4%) of public schools have access to water supply and a remaining 225 require connection to potable water points. The country currently has 3,100 IECDs, of which 900 are privately owned and 2,200 are community-owned. With a 36% national enrolment rate for IECD (2019) and large disparities in access, between urban and rural areas, and underqualified Educarers, it is evident that children are beginning life at different levels, which could further exacerbate inequalities in the long term. It is a matter of equity and thus, HPPII will address the quality outcomes of IECD during the period.
Achieving Vision 2030 requires technical skills to provide professional services. The country will continue with the expansion of TVET which has been successfully commenced during HPPI. Social deficits persist for social infrastructure and Government cannot meet the overwhelming backlog alone, and the private sector is thus encouraged to contribute to the construction of school sports infrastructure, classrooms, hostels and internet connectivity, as envisaged under the NEEEB CSI Pillar.
As part of the efforts to reduce incidents of GBV and Violence Against Children, Government has passed two pieces of legislation: The Combating of Rape Act, 2000 and the Domestic Violence Act, 2003. According to the National Gender Policy (2010-2020) and Prioritised National Plan of Action on GBV (2019 – 2023) Gender Based Violence (GBV) refers to all forms of violence against women, girls, men and boys because of unequal power relations between the two. These forms of violence include physical, sexual, emotional, economic abuse, discrimination and murder. Although GBV is not a new phenomenon, there has been in recent months, rising incidence of crimes of femicide (killings of girls and women), rape (including statutory rape and incest), violence, abductions and Trafficking in Persons, which are predominantly against children and women.
Through the Child Care and Protection Act, 2015, Namibia has a strong legislative and policy framework for the protection of children, in line with international best practice. Namibia is in the process of developing an integrated data management system to support data collection and analysis to inform decision-making, towards improving the wellbeing of the Namibian Child. Another challenge facing adolescent girls is teenage pregnancy, which contribute to inter-generational poverty. The number of pregnant teenage girls below the age of 15 years increased from 436 to 443 in 2019, while the number of those in the age bracket of 15 to 19 years from 12,237 to 13,478. Furthermore, gender-based violence and violence against children is escalating, with nearly 4 out of 10 females and 9 out of 20 males having experienced physical, sexual or emotional violence in their childhood (Namibia VAC survey, 2019). It is important to invest further in pro-family policy options and social services personnel, for increased victim and perpetrator support.
Consistent to Government policy, legislation and the UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women – violence against women and girls in Namibia will not be tolerated. To this end, the National Plan of Action on GBV aims to guide all stakeholders in implementing coordinated and community-led interventions. The family as a fundamental unit of society. The community and faith-based organizations should further take a leading role in instilling values of morality, ethics and non-harmful cultural practices to raise responsible citizens. A multi-sectoral approach will be critical in effectively responding to the high incidence of GBV and VAC in the country. HPPII will prioritise this national response.