Windhoek — The adverse effects of a disproportionate share of communicable diseases and the increasing burden of non-communicable diseases are "eroding" much of Namibia's progress despite boasting many successes.
The United Nations (UN) Resident Coordinator, Rachel Odede made the observation this week.
Non-communicable diseases which are also known as chronic diseases tend to be of long duration and are the result of a combination of genetic, physiological, environmental and behaviours factors while communicable diseases are spread from person to person.
"A large proportion of the Namibian population is still experiencing unmet health needs, frequently of a long term recurrent nature, despite the major improvements made to date," said Odede, adding that Namibia boasts many successes.
Namibia is also experiencing stark health inequities, including access to quality services, Odede observed. She said that 82 percent of the population, mostly informal workers, the unemployed, and other vulnerable populations is covered by 64 percent of total health expenditure.
A smaller proportion of the population, which is 18 percent, enjoys 36 percent of the health expenditure, through the Public Service Medical Aid scheme (PSEMAS), said Odede.
"As health is a challenging, complex and cross-cutting sector, it is a central pillar of Namibia's developmental policies, and the Namibian government is cognisant of the fact that health is a key determinant of economic growth, labour force productivity and poverty eradication," stated Odede.
She noted that the Ministry of Health and Social Services' strategic plan launched this week aims to address health inequities and increase access to quality health care services from the periphery and tertiary health care levels.
The five-year strategic plan is aligned with national, regional and international development agendas.
"Specifically, it is in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which accord primacy to people, the planet and prosperity. For people to prosper, they must be healthy and have access to quality health care, which is outlined in SDG 3 'Good Health and Well-being'," said Odede.
She also said that the eighth target of Goal 8 of the SDGs is to 'achieve Universal Health Coverage' (UHC), and the Health Ministry's strategic plan is closely aligned to the assurance of UHC through improving access to services and quality of care.
UHC means that all people and communities can use the promotive, preventive, curative, rehabilitative and palliative health services they need, of sufficient quality to be effective while also ensuring that the use of the services does not expose the user to financial hardship.
"Moving towards UHC requires strengthening health systems, robust financing structures and reducing out of pocket expenses for health care. Improving health service coverage and health outcomes depends on the availability, accessibility, and capacity of health workers to deliver quality people-centered integrated care," said Odede.
She added that access and quality of services are critical elements to ensuring UHC, and that these key elements are reflected in the newly launched five-year strategic plan of the Health Ministry.
Further, Odede said that over the past 28 years, the government has doubled its efforts to reduce inequalities in health.
"The number of AIDS-related deaths decreased by more than 50 percent between 2000 and 2016 by 53 percent in the adult population and by 90 percent amongst children," Odede highlighted.