18 March 2019

Namibia: Shangula Chronicles Country's Success in Healthcare

Minister of Health and Social Services Dr Kalumbi Shangula last week in Parliament put a spotlight on the country's achievements in the health sector, saying that the ministry has made remarkable strides over the year in achieving health and social well-being of the Namibian people.

Shangula speaking in the National Assembly said Namibia was one of the first countries on the continent to initiate the prevention of mother-to child HIV transmission and antiretroviral therapy.

He said currently, it is estimated that 204 207 people in Namibia are living with HIV/AIDS of which 191 482 (94 percent) know their HIV status, 184 589 (96 percent) are on antiretroviral treatment and 174 806 (95 percent) have their viral load suppressed.

Hence, he said Namibia has exceeded the target of 90-90-90.

"There are remarkable achievements in the control of communicable and non-communicable diseases," said the newly appointed minister.

In the area of maternal and women's health, Shangula said there has been significant reduction in maternal deaths from 390 per 100 000 live births in 2005 to 265 death per 100 000 live births in 2015.

However, he said, the quality of obstetrics and neonatal care services remain sub-optimal and require further work.

"One of the greatest impediments to the provision of adequate health care services is the lack of human resources in critical areas as well as appropriate skills mix," he said, adding that in order to address this problem, the ministry took a deliberate decision to train staff at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels.

In addition, Shangula said the ministry has instituted in-service development programme not only for improved service delivery, but also to chart a care path for these staff members.

"It is envisioned that self-sufficiency in human resource for health provision will be an attainment goal in the near future," he said.

The health minister says the ministry has been challenged time and again by disease outbreaks.

He said in September 2017, a number of patients presented themselves to the health facilities in the Windhoek district with jaundice of yellow eyes.

On 14 December 2017, he said the ministry declared an outbreak of Hepatitis E in Namibia.

Ever since, Shangula said cases of Hepatitis E have been reported in all the regions, with the exception of //Kharas and Zambezi regions.

"Hepatitis E is a disease of liver caused by Hepatitis E virus. Hepatitis E acquired when a person drink or eat fluid or food that is contaminated with the stool of someone who has a virus," he explained, adding that it is more common in places where there is poor handwashing habits infection include fever, tiredness, lack of appetite, stomach ache, joint pain, light-coloured stool, yellowish skin and or eyes.

Shangula said a rapid assessment of the response to Hepatitis E that was carried out recently revealed that there is a low risk communication on Hepatitis E through mass media.

"Sanitation is very poor in informal settlement. Open defecation, unsafe and irregular handwashing practice are the norm rather than exception," he said.

"It is quite a matter of concern that the public does not seem to view the outbreak as a serious matter," he added.

He said the responsibility to prevent one from being infected with Hepatitis E lies to a great extent with an individual person.

"We have taken measures to reinvigorate the control activities in all the regions, including those two that are affected," he said, adding that the ministry clarion call is "hand wash after toilet; hand wash before meals."

Caption: (Shangula) Dr Kalumbi Shangula

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