With neighbouring Zambia being among countries at risk of an Ebola outbreak, the Ministry of Health and Social Services says Namibia has an Ebola virus disease (EVD) preparedness and response plan in place that was developed in 2015.
Responding to New Era questions, Dr Lilliane Kahuika-Crentsil, an epidemiologist in the Ministry of Health and Social Services explained that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has conducted a formal rapid risk assessment, which determined that the public risk is high at the regional level.
On the basis of the rapid risk assessment, the WHO Regional Office for Africa identified nine countries neighbouring the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to support with preparedness and readiness activities, said Kahuika-Crentsil.
The nine neighbouring countries, namely Angola, Burundi, Central African Republic, Republic of Congo, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia were categorised into three priority levels based on their capacity to manage EVD and other viral haemorrhagic fever (VHF) outbreaks, and proximity to the affected areas.
Namibia shares borders with two of the nine priority countries, namely Angola and Zambia, of which both were classified as priority level two on the basis that they neighbour the DRC but are not directly linked with Equateur Province, which is currently experiencing the Ebola outbreak, the epidemiologist explained.
Due to the ever-expanding global transport networks, all countries are potentially at risk for an Ebola outbreak. This implies that the rest of Africa and the world at large need to strengthen their operational readiness and preparedness, to ensure that they have the capacity to respond to an EVD outbreak, should it occur," stated Kahuika-Crentsil.
Namibia developed its Ebola preparedness and response after the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, added Kahuika-Crentsil.
Namibia has experienced several outbreaks of Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever in recent years, which like Ebola is also viral haemorrhagic fever, she added.
"The recurrent Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever outbreaks in our country have tried and tested the robustness of our public health system, and this has tremendously improved our capacity to respond to future public health emergencies of such nature. We have incorporated the valuable lessons learned from our Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever outbreak responses as part of our preparedness and response mechanisms for future VHF outbreaks," said the epidemiologist.
Namibia and other countries in southern Africa are working to strengthen cross-border surveillance and improve public health emergency preparedness and response capabilities, added the doctor. "Cross-border collaboration is crucial," she said.