5 December 2012

Namibia: Reaching Out to Informal Settlements

LIKE many other countries, Namibia’s rural population has been relocating to towns and cities in search of better living conditions and access to much-needed services.

This has led to the mushrooming of informal settlements around towns, making it difficult for government agencies to provide critical services such as health in the informal settlements.

It is not only those in informal settlements who do not have access to health facilities, but those living in rural areas have to walk long distances to reach these facilities.

The Ministry of Health has partnered with institutions such as the City of Windhoek and PharmAccess Foundation to provide mobile health services to those who are out of reach of health facilities in the immediate surroundings.

Mister Sister Mobile Clinics began in 2007 when a national study was conducted by PharmAccess Namibia, in partnership with the Agricultural Employers Association.

The study highlighted that rural employees and their dependents have limited access to health services. One of the greatest challenges for rural communities to access health services is the long distance that they have to cover to reach health facilities.

The study found that the average one-way distance of travel to healthcare facilities was 42 kilometres to reach a mobile clinic, 64 kilometres for clinics, 99 kilometres for doctors, and 107 kilometres for hospitals.

In this context, various avenues were investigated to increase access to primary healthcare for rural communities and decrease the burden on public health facilities and rural employers.

The core target group for this programme was rural employees and their dependents, whose employers contribute towards the cost of the primary healthcare through annual subscription and premium contributions.

Mister Sister Mobile Clinic operations are managed from the PharmAccess offices in Windhoek. The mobile clinics currently operate in the areas surrounding Okahandja and Hochveld in the Otjozondjupa Region, as well as in the Steinhausen area in the Omaheke Region.

According to project manager Delia Weimers-Maasdorp, they are also providing services in Windhoek informal settlements such as Okahandja Park, Samora Machel, Havana, Hakahana, Tobias Hainyeko and Mix informal settlements.

“We have registered nurses offering services which are in accordance to the protocols and directives of the Ministry of Health. These services include confirmation of pregnancy and routine ante- and post-natal care, family planning advice and supplies (including oral and injectable contraception), routine immunisations which are part of the Ministry of Health’s vaccination programme and ‘Well Child Care and Monitoring’,” she said.

Weimers-Maasdorp said other services include screening for TB symptoms, voluntary counselling and testing for HIV, diagnosis and treatment of routine communicable diseases, including respiratory infections, malaria, sexually transmitted infections, diarrhoea and vomiting, worms and skin infections testing.

Their services also include referral and follow-up on chronic diseases such as hypertension, asthma, diabetes, arthritis, treatment for minor trauma, education and communication on all relevant health matters.

The outreach services are provided once a month.

Weimers-Maasdorp is happy with the number of people who have turned up for treatment.

“So far it has been a very good response. The clinics are quite flooded with people and we have had 964 visits from August until October this year in the informal settlements only,” she said.

Susan Kalisto, a Havana resident, is very happy with the services being offered to them as she feels the clinic is now nearer.

“Although this is the first time I am visiting the clinic, I am delighted to know that there are people out there who are willing to help. The only problem is that it comes only on certain days and not every day. It would have been so much better if they come every day,” Kalisto said.

Another Havana resident, Aina Shavuka, said the clinic provides a good service. “It is very close and it is helping those who reside here in Havana because we are a lot. They must please bring a permanent hospital close to the people.”

With a huge smile on her face, Shavuka explained how the clinic helps them cut costs.

“It helps us to save taxi money. We simply walk from home to get treatment,” Shavuka said.

Mister Sister Mobile Clinic would highly appreciate donations as there are a number of additional costs such as diesel, staff costs and staff accommodation that need to be covered in order to ensure the sustainability of the project.

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