U.S. Food Assistance Enables 4,000 HIV Patients to Resume Treatment

A beneficiary receives food rations at a distribution point in Gobabis, Omaheke Region. Staff and recipients must wash their hands, wear face masks, and observe social distancing due to COVID-19 regulations.

Gobabis – More than 4,000 Namibian HIV patients who stopped taking their antiretroviral medication have resumed treatment as a result of the United States’ food assistance program, which comes to an end in August.

“I simply could not take my medication on an empty stomach because of side effects,” recalls Pezaje Tjazuvara from Otjinene, Omaheke Region. The 59-year-old family head is one of 147 patients in the region who have returned to antiretroviral care since she started receiving maize meal, beans, and oil through the food assistance program. “I truly appreciate the food assistance which not only helped me feed my family but also allowed me to take my pills again.”

The food assistance program, intended to meet the nutritional gap of food insecure families affected by Namibia’s recent drought, is funded by the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Omaheke Governor Pijoo Nganate expressed appreciation of the food assistance from PEPFAR and USAID, saying, “It will go a long way and be remembered by our people.”

Following President Geingob’s declaration of a drought emergency in May 2019, the U.S. Embassy in Windhoek committed US$8.6 million in food assistance to the most affected and vulnerable Namibians, including HIV patients.

Food assistance distribution began in December of 2019 in Kavango East and Kavango West, then extended to several other regions of the country.  The World Food Programme (WFP) distributes the last of the US$8.6 million-worth of food this month.

Using the funds from PEPFAR and USAID, the WFP distributed, in total, 10,000 metric tons of food to 350,000 Namibians over the course of nine months.

The Office of the Prime Minister and the Ministry of Health and Social Services partnered with the U.S. Embassy and WFP to provide this food assistance to Namibians.