Speaker of National Assembly, Hon. Prof. Peter Katjavivi with Global women and children’s rights advocate, Mrs. Graca Machel during the meeting
Story by George Sanzila
International women and children’s rights advocate Mrs. Graca Machel together with Ms. Leila Pakkala, UNICEF Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa have met the Speaker of the National Assembly Hon. Prof. Peter Katjavivi and other Members of Parliament.
The visit is a joint advocacy aimed at supporting nutrition and children’s rights and ensuring their implementation. The visit follows a similar undertaking in 2012 when the government of Namibia made a commitment to cooperate with other stakeholders such as Namibian alliance for improved nutrition (NAFIN) and UNICEF to fight malnutrition.
According to UNICEF, malnutrition is widespread in Namibia with one in four children under five years, short for their age and underweight. Malnourished children often experience physical development delays including weight loss and susceptibility to illnesses due to a lack of protein, calories and other nutrients.
Mrs. Machel noted that she was impressed with policies and structures put in place to fight malnutrition in Namibia and that the efforts should give impetus to implementation. “I know that in Namibia the resources are there, the country has potential. All we need is a coordinated approach and implementation. As Africa we should see beacons that make us proud and not to be seen as a failed continent”, urged Machel.
Machel who further linked sanitation to nutritional challenges and the need to align national plans to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) further urged for nutrition- sensitive budgeting bemoaning that financial resources committed to early child development were still modest. “We should be asking ourselves, how much the country is investing in child development. Investing much will aid the development of our human capital in future”, said Machel, a renowned humanitarian.
Speaker of the National Assembly, Hon. Prof. Peter Katjavivi noted that Namibia is in the process of developing a food security and nutrition policy that will culminate in the National Food Security and Nutrition Committee. This is in keeping with the Harambee Prosperity Plan that calls for the elimination of hunger in the country. He further noted that the introduction of food banks in the country has played a bigger role in nutritional matters of children adding that a pilot programme on the latter in Windhoek will soon be replicated in all the regions of Namibia.
Apart from parliamentary advocacy on issues of nutrition done thus far, such as Namibia hosting the Inter-Parliamentary Union meeting on nutrition and Parliamentary committee sessions with relevant Ministries and Civil society organisations, the Speaker feels Members of Parliament have to incorporate nutritional issues into their oversight functions.
He noted that a budget committee between the two houses of Parliament would soon be established to aid in the formulation of nutrition responsive budgets. With financial support from UNICEF meant to fund the initial two years of the establishment of the secretariat for the children’s Parliament, Hon. Katjavivi reiterated the importance of the children’s Parliament in the pursuit of democratic ideals and children’s rights. “We have a children’s Parliament which is intended to inculcate a democratic culture in our children. UNICEF has been very instrumental and we thank them for that”, commended Katjavivi.
Ms. Leila Pakkala, UNICEF Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa highlighted the role of Parliament as part of three organs of the state hailing some of the legislations that have been enacted and those that are still in the process of promulgation. “Parliament is equally important in issues of nutrition as it is responsible for the setting up of policy and legal frameworks just like the executive is responsible for allocation of resources and implementation. We commend the government for the child care protection act that has aspects related to nutrition as well as other legislations like the one on food and security that is yet to be finalized”, applauded Pakkala.
During their three day visit that concludes tomorrow, Mrs. Machel and Ms. Pakkala will also meet with top Government officials, Civil Society Organisations, UN Agencies and development partners, to strategize on how to increase investment towards nutrition.