Windhoek: Smoothing out income disparities and the containment of poverty levels are now a source of serious concern for the government. Ten regions have been classified as having “very high or high” poverty levels. The Khomas, Erongo and Omusati regions are the only ones in the country with a “lower level of poverty."
Households across the country are no longer able to afford the actual quantity of basic goods that they were buying 12-months ago. Inflation has also caused a significant erosion of consumers’ purchasing power. These indicators are contained in the just released Namibia Household Income and Expenditure Survey (NHIES) for 2009/2010.
Government is so concerned with finding working solutions that it spent about N$60 million on gathering fresh data, through the survey, with the aim of informing policy formulation to reduce poverty levels. At face value the statistics in the NHIES show an improvement over the situation recorded in the survey of 2003/2004.
Dr John Steytler of the Namibia Statistics Agency, describes the overall statistics “as more encouraging [especially on the] social side with social indicators [on] income levels, asset ownership, access to services, and others improving.”
Steytler does however admit that there are still huge disparities in existence across the regions and gender. “When unpacked the picture is diverse. Pockets of poverty have started to increase and this needs monitoring to inform policy making decisions,” he says. The survey notes that the poor are disproportionately located in rural areas where 27 percent of the people are poor, and of which 13.6 percent are categorised as severely poor.
The figure is higher when compared to a mere 9.51 percent of poor people in urban areas. The Kavango Region sits with the highest incidence of poverty with 43 percent of the households in the region classified as poor and 24 percent of the households as severely poor.
The Caprivi Region comes in second with 42 percent of poor households and 26 percent of the households classified as severely poor, followed by the Oshikoto Region in third place. In the Oshikoto Region about 35 percent of the households are classified as poor.
“There are very high levels of poverty in the northeastern parts of the country, where poverty is either very high or high for all regions. The distribution of severely poor households across the country is highly concentrated to the north-eastern parts of Namibia,” according to the report.
The Hardap Region has a disproportionately higher concentration of severely poor households, while the Kunene Region has a disproportionately lower concentration of severely poor households.
There are fears that the high levels of poverty in rural areas, and somer regions, would lead to the migration of people to regions where the grass is greener, such as the Erongo and Khomas regions. In fact the survey notes that while the Khomas Region has the lowest levels of poverty, it is also the region that recorded an increase in poverty levels since the 2003/04 survey.