31 August 2004

Namibia: Peace Corps Join HIV Fight

Okahandja — SEVEN US Peace Corps volunteers will be deployed soon in four regions, Omusati, Hardap, Kavango and Oshikoto, to fight the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

The health experts will be responsible for providing medical care and prevention measures to affected and infected people in health centres and hospitals in the four regions. The young Americans joined hundreds of other of their country folk who are already deployed in Namibia to serve its people in various capacities.

The volunteers will work with the Ministry of Health and Social Services and local non-governmental organisations dealing with HIV/AIDS at both national and community level for two-year terms at Rundu, Onesi, Rehoboth and Oshikuku.

Speaking at the swearing-in ceremony yesterday, Deputy Minister of Health and Social Services, Richard Kamwi, said HIV/AIDS has become the greatest threat to sustainable development in many countries of the world, including Namibia. He added that Namibia is one of the most affected countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The deputy minister said that the fiasco of HIV/AIDS had severally detracted from the socio-economic development of many communities and that many people infected with the HIV virus a few years ago are becoming terminally ill and subsequently dying.

Kamwi told the newly sworn-in volunteers that HIV/AIDS in Namibia results in big losses of productivity in all sectors of the society, adding that loss of beloved ones and breadwinners in several households, and its consequences, leads to an increased number of orphans.

He expressed appreciation for the support and assistance being directed to Namibia and to the health ministry in particular by the USA, saying that Namibia's development partners were doing well by complementing the government's efforts to address HIV/AIDS.

Despite the availability of the health volunteers, the deputy minister said "the demand on resources on his ministry to address the HIV/AIDS problem poses a serious challenge. Not only do we need human resources, but we also need financial resources to acquire the necessary anti-retroviral drugs to provide therapy to infected people."

Kamwi added that adequate space in the health facilities to accommodate patients so that they receive care and treatment, as well as support for the communities, would be needed in future.

USAID Namibia Mission Director, Gerry Newton, said currently the US government through USAID spends US$12,6 billion in 150 countries, including Namibia.

Namibia benefited from more than US$150 million through five national priorities: the combating of HIV/AIDS, the strengthening of democracy and good governance, improving rural livelihoods, improving basic education, and English, mathematics and science subjects.

Newton noted that due to Namibia's choice for HIV/AIDS as a priority area, his government's assistance through USAID programmes in Namibia had been doubled.

The volunteers expressed happiness with their decision to serve in Namibia. They underwent a six-months training in traditional norms and vernacular languages, such as Oshiwambo, Rukwangali and Afrikaans.

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