Remarks By Ms. Anita Kiki Gbeho UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative Official Opening of the African Drought Conference

Aug 15, 2016

It is with great pleasure that I give this speech on behalf of the UN family in Namibia, at the official opening of the African Drought Conference. Allow me to start by expressing appreciation to the Government of Namibia, our host for this important event.


This conference could not have come at a more opportune moment. According to the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA, there are now approximately 60 million[1] people affected by the El Niño phenomenon, the highest number ever recorded.

East and Southern Africa are currently facing one of the worst droughts in over 50 years[2], induced by El Nino. Humanitarian and Development partners estimate that over 52 million[3] people in the region will be food insecure in, and that this number could rise.


The situation is so dire that in June this year the Southern African Development Community (SADC), declared a regional state of emergency.


Ladies and Gentlemen,


El Nino is taking place in a world already dramatically affected by climate change, and where more extreme weather events are expected.


In the last decade, almost two billion[4] people have been affected by disasters, including droughts and yet only 1% of international aid is spent to minimize the impact of disasters.

Response Aid alone is insufficient; a longer term approach is required in order to build the resilience of the most vulnerable. And we are not investing enough in preparedness.

And for change to happen, addressing climate change will need to be integrated into national planning and policies. Education and capacity on climate change will need to be improved. Early warning systems will need to be strengthened.


The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development agreed by UN Member States last year can be a common frame of reference for both development and humanitarian work when it comes to drought.


Ladies and Gentlemen,


The SDGs, accord primacy to people, planet and prosperity. For example SDG 13 calls for strengthening resilience to climate change. SDG 11 and the Sendai Framework (make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable) call for an inclusive and sustainable approach to disaster risk reduction. Together they focus on resource mobilization, mitigation, adaptation to climate change and resilience building.


As a result we have the opportunity to pursue more integrated and innovative approaches to analysis, planning, and programming by:


  1. advocating for multi-year and flexible financing
  2. re-asserting the critical importance of prevention and preparedness;
  3. focusing emergency and development efforts at the local level.


Ladies and Gentlemen,


Namibia, one of the driest countries in Southern Africa, has also been affected by this drought. In Namibia, rainfall often evaporates before it reaches the ground. Only 2% of the rainfall ends up as surface runoff, and 1% becomes available to recharge groundwater. Therefore 97 % of the rainfall is lost through Evapotranspiration[5].


Against this background, the President of the Republic of Namibia, Dr Hage Geingob, has declared a state of emergency due to the ongoing drought.


Critical water shortages are impacting harvests and the livestock industry in the agricultural sector, which sustains about 70 percent[6] of the Namibian population.


Ladies and Gentlemen,


The Namibian government and people have demonstrated leadership in preparedness and response efforts.


Whether you speak about the “Namibian Helping Namibians” campaign[7], where ordinary citizens respond to their neighbour’s needs, or the Government spending about N$ 127 million[8] over the last year to assist farmers and communities during times of extreme drought, action has been taken.

Namibia, with support from the UN system is also implementing clear policy directives. These include mainstreaming climate change adaptation, disaster risk reduction, and food and livelihood security, into development planning. Work is also underway to raise awareness; and a knowledge management strategy, is also in place.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

Despite these efforts, challenges, not particular to Namibia, still exist.

These challenges include: the fragile nature of the agricultural sector, which employs a large number of the African population; malnutrition, which in Southern Africa is exacerbated by HIV/AIDs; or the lack of robust systems for early warning, early action and resilience building.

Therefore, moving forward, there is an urgency ‘to debate so we can innovate’ when it comes to enhancing resilience to drought.

Questions such as:

  • how we promote the use of drought-resistant cereals;
  • how we advance “green economy” strategies that ensure low carbon emissions[9] as we develop;
  • how we develop early warning, monitoring and response systems, that for example, provide farmers with real-time information by cellphone, and
  • how we make drought insurance schemes more wide spread


Ladies and gentlemen,


In conclusion, as we pledge to wage war on poverty, not only in Namibia, but across the entire continent, (so that no one is left behind); let me assure you, on behalf of the UN system in Namibia, of our commitment to work with Government and partners to find answers to these questions. Answers in support of a drought resilient Africa; and answers in support of a drought resilient Namibia.

We look forward to continued partnership, dialogue, and action to make the ideas of today, into a reality for tomorrow.

Millions of lives and livelihoods depend on it!

I thank you.



[2] United Nations World Food Programme


[3] UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)

[4] United Nations Development Programme: ActNow - Save Later


[5] Namibia’s Third National Communication to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

[6] 4 Bank of Namibia Quarterly bulletin


[7] Campaign by the Red Cross Society of Namibia aimed to raise funds from citizens as well as the private sector to support drought-related activities


[8] National Disaster Risk Management Committee

[9] Refers to the release of greenhouse gases and/or their precursors into the atmosphere over a specified area and period of time

need to be answered.


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