9 May 2018

Namibia: Call for Support of Health Service Delivery

THE WALVIS Bay Corridor Group's wellness service project manager, Edward Shivute, has urged individuals and companies, especially those in the private sector, to support health service delivery and invest in wellness programmes for their employees.

In a recent interview with The Namibian, Shivute said such an investment would eventually ensure the country achieves its global targets of significantly reducing HIV infection by 2030, and improving the economy through productivity as a result of having healthy employees.

"Namibia is doing exceptionally well regarding health service delivery because of the generous support from its development partners such as USAID/Pepfar, GIZ, Global Fund, as well as the Ministry of Health and Social Services, amongst others. However, amid reduced donor funding, we are challenged to do more with less and demonstrate significant value with the current resources," he observed.

The group established a container clinic at Walvis Bay in 2009 with the support of the transport and logistics industry to cater for the health needs of the industry's employees. The services offered at the container clinic are free of charge.

The project's operations were strengthened in 2016 through the support of USAID/Pepfar (the US President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief), under the Society for Family Health, in collaboration with the ministry of health. It was set up with the objective to increase HIV-AIDS services for employees in the industry and communities that interact with its mobile population.

"The Walvis Bay Corridor Group (WBCG) has directed a significant amount of resources to demand the creation of activities in the past three years. Hence, the response and demand for health services have subsequently increased in the past 12 months," said Shivute.

The project currently offers a combined prevention package, including HIV testing and pre-exposure prophylactic (PrEP) drugs, as well as condoms for HIV-negative clients. HIV-positive clients also benefit from anti-retroviral treatment that is started on the day of diagnosis, as well as condoms and effective counselling.

Other key services include STI screening, primary healthcare services and general lifestyle disease screening services. The key groups vulnerable to HIV infection which are targeted by the project are mobile populations such as long-distance truck drivers, miners, fishermen, seagoing personnel as well as female sex workers, men who have sex with other men, adolescent girls and young women.

The clinic is strategically situated at a location near the harbour, railway station and nightclubs, where these populations are located, or frequently visit.

"It is mostly visited by both men and women at the age range of 14 - 65 years. It assists from 20 to 30 clients on busy days. These clients also freely visit our clinic because of the friendly attitude of our health service providers, as well as the fast turn-around time of service delivery. On average, about 60 truck drivers visit the clinic per month.The projects are donor funded and as a result, the clinic stock is limited.

The clinic is meant to target the truck drivers, and companies contribute to payment.

"Accessing health services remains an individual choice, but the most important fact is that all citizens should feel comfortable and free to approach any health facility, and still benefit from its services as a basic human right," Shivute noted.

He said the organisation strives to be a beacon of excellence regarding the provision of health services. Therefore, clients and partners should feel appreciated and cared for whenever they visit any of its clinics around the country. He thus advised all public and health facilities around the country to operate and offer health services through strategies that attract more clients, instead of demoralising them.

The group also expressed happiness to have received a recent visit from the US ambassador to Namibia, Lisa Johnson, at its Walvis Bay clinic, which according to Shivute demonstrates that the group's efforts are being appreciated.

Johnson's visit had motivated the group to raise the bar and ensure that more key and vulnerable populations are reached with health services.

Health workers at the clinic are also happy that individuals and companies are visiting the facility for services.

"It is always a pleasure to work with and assist our diverse groups of people, and as a retired nurse, being here is like taking care of my children, and they love coming back to me to share their health challenges and successes. It is always good to see the sparks in their eyes when they have received good services from us," said Vera Mhambi, a registered nurse at the clinic. Stephanus Frans, an HIV rapid tester, said he is particularly delighted that he can help others.

"I enjoy working with all clients, and nowadays every client walks out of our clinic with a smile because there is medical assistance for everyone.

The WBCG was established in 2000 to engage in business development activities, thereby increasing freight for the port and the corridors that are linked to it, as well as to engage in the facilitation of corridor and infrastructure development.

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