Namibia: 22 Die From Malaria Since January

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Malaria is one of the world oldest and deadliest diseases in human history.

TWENTY-TWO people died of malaria-related illnesses and more than 17 000 cases were reported in the last four months.

Last year, malaria-related diseases killed 37 people during the same period. Anne-Marie Nitschke, the director of special programmes in the health ministry, confirmed the deaths to The Namibian yesterday.

Nitschke said all regions experienced a rise in malaria cases with Kavango East and West seeing 78,9% of the total cases reported, while 10,8% were reported in Zambezi region and 7,6% in Ohangwena.

She further said that the Nankudu district in Kavango West continues to make the headlines with 34,4% of the 78,9%.

"The most affected regions are bordering Angola whose malaria transmission is very high compared to Namibia," she said.

Meanwhile health minister Bernard Haufiku on Monday said 12 people have so far died from hepatitis E since the disease was declared an outbreak last year.

So far, 1 186 hepatitis E cases have been reported.

Haufiku said this in the National Assembly when he was motivating his ministry's N$6,5 billion budget.

The hepatitis E death toll has been rising despite coordinated efforts by the health ministry and the City of Windhoek to contain the outbreak.

The latest deaths involve a 10-month-old baby and a woman, whose age was not given.

Hepatitis E is concentrated in the informal settlement, with Havana and Goreangab areas being the most affected because of poor sanitation and hygiene due to lack of running water.

The disease affects people aged between 20 and 39, while those aged between 40 and 49 are least affected.

The health ministry and the City of Windhoek have provided water bowsers and rehabilitated or renovated broken toilets.

The Windhoek municipality has also installed water taps in the affected areas.

However, despite the coordinated efforts to clean up the informal settlement, residents vandalise the facilities.

Health ministry spokesperson Manga Libita yesterday said the toilet coverage in the affected areas remains low "with over 62% residents practising open defecation and about 12% of people still using contaminated water sources".

Haufiku also said to help mitigate and better control disease outbreaks in the country, the Namibian Institute for Pathology (NIP) would be transformed into a department under his ministry.

The institute would then be tasked to help with disease surveillance, outbreak prevention and preparedness, as well as research, development and training of public health experts including a field epidemiologist.

"Only a stronger and resilient national disease surveillance system will solve or at least mitigate our future problems. NIP should be transformed and changed from its current status of being a parastatal to a department providing laboratory services under the auspices of the Namibia Institute of Public Health," he said.

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