18 December 2012

Namibia: Climate Change Challenges the Health Sector

MALARIA deaths in Namibia have fallen drastically from 7 000 a year at independence to nine deaths last year.

This is according to the minister of health and social services, Richard Kamwi, who opened an international workshop on public health and climate change in Windhoek yesterday. The workshop is being attended by 11 African countries .

Kamwi despite this achievement, the ministry still faces a challenge posed by other diseases linked to climate change.

"Because of a lack of the priority given to environmental issues and a lack of finance, climate-sensitive diseases such as malaria and diarrhoea have increased. One third of these figures are from the African continent," said Kamwi.

Kamwi said Namibia had become prone to increased flooding over the past five years, which has increased waterborne diseases in flood-prone areas. Most diseases are linked directly or indirectly with the environment, the minister said.

He further said that more than 1,1 billion people worldwide have no access to a safe water supply.

Globally, about 2,2 million deaths a year are caused by diarrhoea, the majority of them children under the age of five.

The minister said it was in light of these issues that the ministry had adopted a framework for public health adaptation to climate change last year.

This framework requests the World Health Organisation (WHO) regional director to establish a Pan-African Programme for Public Health Adaptation to Climate Change to provide a coordinated response of member states to issues of public health and climate change.

"In that direction, ministries of health need to take a more active role in the climate change negotiations so that issues of public health receive more attention than is the case now," said Kamwi.

The Ministry of Health and Social Services, in partnership with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is hosting the workshop.

Countries such as Botswana, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Malawi, Rwanda, Swaziland, Lesotho, Kenya and Uganda are attending the three-day meeting.

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