19 October 2018

Namibia: Rains Could Push Up Hepatitis E Cases

Photo: Hannah McNeish/UN Environment
A farmer points to some of the banana trees dotting the steep hillsides in villages in Anjouan that used to burst with fruit but are struggling or dying due to changing weather and soil erosion.

THE Namibia Red Cross Society and Unicef yesterday warned members of the public that the rainy season will likely increase the number of hepatitis E virus cases throughout the country.

The spokesperson of the Namibia Red Cross Society (NRCS), Festus Alukolo, said at the annual health and hygiene promotion day in Windhoek's Goreangab settlement, one of the hardest-hit areas since the outbreak in 2017, that his organisation believes the situation will only improve through the change of mindset of people observing good and acceptable hygiene practices.

New Era reported yesterday that there were over 3 500 cases of hepatitis E detected in eight of the country's 14 regions, with Khomas topping the list with 2 542, Erongo (638), Omusati (219), Oshana (81), Ohangwena and Oshikoto (56 each), and Kavango East and West each recording 38 cases so far.

"It is with serious concern that we reflect on the challenges posed by hepatitis E, which is still spreading unabated in our various towns and villages since December last year," Alukolo said, adding that people should be worried about the approaching rainy season as it will increase the risk of the outbreaks of water-borne diseases, as well as worsening the spread of hepatitis E.

The NRCS also wants to ensure that Namibia improves its sanitation status, which is putting the country in the lowest ranks in southern Africa and the world at large.

Unicef spokesperson Judy Matjila said this year's theme for the health and hygiene promotion day, "Clean Hands - A Recipe for Health", is fitting because it places emphasis on how formal and informal food traders can be supported with information and resources to prevent diseases such as diarrhoea, cholera, typhoid and hepatitis E.

"Unicef also applauds the Namibian government for recognising that access to water and sanitation is a basic human right and an essential way to prevent diseases and health conditions," she noted.

Matjila added that individuals should wash their hands when they buy food like kapana and vetkoek from street vendors because it can be easily contaminated during preparation and handling by some careless vendors.

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