Child Poverty in Namibia
The Republic of Namibia, situated in southern Africa, was established in 1990. It shares borders with Angola and Zambia to the north, Botswana and South Africa to the south and the South Atlantic Ocean to the west. Namibia, a middle-income parliamentary democracy, is famous for its political stability and rich cultural diversity. Its economy revolves around industries such as mining, agriculture, tourism and fishing, with significant industrial hubs around the capital, Windhoek.

Namibia exhibits substantial ethnic diversity, encompassing more than 10 regional languages and cultures. After decades of being ruled by apartheid-era South Africa as South West Africa, the nation grapples with socioeconomic underdevelopment and widespread poverty, particularly among its rural population. Here is an overview of child poverty in Namibia.

Improved Conditions Coexist with Extreme Poverty

Though Namibia has made rapid progress in curbing poverty, falling from 37.7% in 2003 to 17.4% by 2015, disadvantaged demographics, such as children, often experience higher rates of poverty than the general population. 

Child poverty in Namibia generally remains at more than 30%, with substantial concentration among agricultural and rural families. Overall deprivation or multi-dimensional poverty, which includes the inability to afford certain goods and services, such as transportation, refrigerators and stoves, are the results of long-standing poverty and remain widespread in some of these rural regions, which accentuates the impact of limited income. 

Poverty varies among children and within their families widely, with children from families with only one income and families with more than four children especially prone to extreme poverty. 

Concentrated primarily in families facing structural challenges, this heightened level of poverty often involves limited access to necessities like water, crucial for farming. Approximately 80.7% of impoverished children lack improved water access, while more than 65.3% lack various utility services. Although extreme poverty is relatively low by African standards, it remains significant among these younger children, with 24% experiencing malnutrition under five years of age and 13% being underweight.

Improvements Point to Future Progress

Despite these adversities, Namibia has continued to outpace other African nations in reducing poverty, especially for those in positions of extreme deprivation despite ongoing challenges in addressing less severe poverty. Following independence, Namibia introduced a series of social grants oriented toward reducing the effects of extreme poverty, including those targeted explicitly at child poverty. Though such grants benefit households without children in impoverished conditions, government assistance is more prevalent among households facing child poverty. 

Grants offered to families based on social conditions include those for foster care and child maintenance, disability grants and pensions for those more than 60 years of age. Many such government aid schemes, such as pensions, though not directly oriented toward impoverished children, have collectively reduced child poverty measurably. According to an analysis conducted by the Namibian Statistics Agency in 2010, child poverty would increase from 38.9% to 61.1% without social grants. 

Specialized International Charities Facilitate Advancement 

International charity and development organizations have also contributed to efforts to improve opportunity and welfare among children in Namibia. One such organization, Project HOPE Namibia, also known as the People Health Foundation invests in improving health care access, quality and patient care in select nations. In Namibia, the charity focuses on providing medical care to vulnerable populations, including children. This care includes vaccination, financial literacy training and material required for continued education. These programs have, with assistance from the United Nations (U.N.) and aid programs operated by the United States (U.S.), vaccinated 24,000 orphans and vulnerable children against the coronavirus. 

The continued interest of the Namibian Government, in particular in expanding the child grant system and in resolving the very high level of income inequality, a product of the legacy of stifled opportunity for most of the population during the apartheid era, is a positive indication for continued efforts in countering child poverty. A stable political infrastructure bolsters cooperation with various U.N. organizations such World Food Programme (WFP), UNICEF and UNESCO. However, continued investments are forecast as required to maintain progress, with economic growth and the country’s high literacy and school attendance growing income likely insufficient to lower poverty among children, and other vulnerable demographics, to the low levels sought. 

In sum, though child poverty remains a concern for the international community which merits continued investment and analysis, Namibia offers potential in its capacity to meet goals in eradicating such deprivation among children and other vulnerable demographics. 

– Cormac Sullivan
Photo: Wikipedia Commons