7 February 2013

Namibia: Health Sector Needs More Financing - Kamwi

DESPITE the fact that the health sector has consistently received one of the highest budgets, alongside the education sector, this is not enough, said Health Minister Richard Kamwi, when he addressed senior managers of the ministry yesterday.

The Ministry of Health and Social Services received N$4 billion during the 2012/13 financial year, but Kamwi said the Katutura and Windhoek Central State hospitals alone absorbed N$2 billion two years ago.

African Union (AU) heads of state, including that of Namibia, in 2001 committed themselves to allocating at least 15% of their annual national budgets to improving the health sector. The health sector in Namibia last year only received 10,5% of the national budget.

"N$4 billion is a drop [in the ocean]. Give us resources and we will respond to the outcry," Kamwi said, directing his top officials to plead for more financial support from the National Planning Commission (NPC) "to address the sorry state of affairs".

World Health Organisation (WHO) country representative Madga Robalo, at the same event was in agreement, saying Namibia's health sector should get more domestic funding.

She said improved health of the nation requires a multi-sectoral approach and a flexible, responsive health sector, with an emphasis on prevention and smart partnership.

Kamwi described last year as the most challenging year for the ministry, which resulted in a presidential commission of inquiry into the management and operations of the public health sector.

The commission last week delivered its report to President Hifikepunye Pohamba, and it is hoped that its findings will be made public.

Notwithstanding these challenges, Kamwi said real and tangible progress has been made to improve a number of health indicators set out by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The next demographic and health survey will be held in the course of this year, but available statistics show that under-five mortalities have dropped from 83 for every 1000 live births in 1992 to 69 for every 1000 live births in 2006.

There has similarly been a reduction of maternal deaths from 225 for every l00 000 live births in 1992 to 449 of every 100 000 in 2006. Last year, it has gone down to 118 for every 100 000 live births.

Malaria cases have also gone down from 7 000 deaths at independence to four last year, and the country reported an 87% coverage of anti-retroviral therapy to HIV-AIDS sufferers. Last year, the HIV-AIDS prevalence was 18,2%.

But the ministry is still beset with a perennial shortage of registered nurses, doctors and pharmacists.

Kamwi urged that all vacant nursing posts be advertised. The ministry has entered into an agreement with Kenya, Uganda and Botswana to recruit registered nurses, and is seeking doctors and other specialists, including pharmacists, from Russia and Ethiopia.

Cabinet has also approved the introduction of a diploma in nursing to start this year.

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