Windhoek — The Ministry of Health and Social Services, in collaboration with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the World Health Organisation (WHO), will train health care providers to effectively assist victims and survivors of gender-based violence (GBV).
The first step to this move was the launch last week of the clinical handbook for survivors subjected to intimate or sexual violence.
The handbook is designed to help health care providers respond appropriately through easy steps and suggestions.
The book contains practical steps to help and care for survivors of intimate or sexual violence.
Health care providers including those who are not specialists will be empowered through the handbook to assist survivors of violence to start recovering.
The UNFPA and WHO will support the health ministry by training health care workers at facility level in various regions.
Executive Director of the Ministry of Health and Social Services Ben Nangombe said at the launch of the clinical handbook that there is cumulative evidence of the negative health outcomes of gender-based violence.
"It has been associated with reproductive health risks and problems, chronic ailments, psychological consequences, injury, and death," said Nangombe. Physical and sexual abuse affects women's reproductive health either directly through the risks incurred by forced sex or fear or indirectly through psychological effects that lead to risk-taking behaviour.
"Children may also suffer the consequences during the mother's pregnancy or during their own childhood due to neglect or the psychological and developmental effects of living with or experiencing abuse," said Nangombe.
Nangombe said the health sector is a crucial partner in preventing, intervening early or responding to gender-based violence.
"Health care providers may be the first people in whom a survivor confides and speaks about the violation they have experienced. The health sector is thus, in most cases, an entry point by survivors to formal service provision," he remarked.
Sadly, the health sector has not fully defined its role beyond the clinical treatment of patients.
"There are missed opportunities for early identification and interventions," added Nangombe. The UNFPA Country Representative, Dennia Gayle, also spoke at the occasion.
She remarked that gender-based violence is deeply entrenched in the socio-cultural norms which in turn undermine women's decision-making power, contribute to women's poor health outcomes, maternal mortality and HIV infection.
"The only way to address gender-based violence effectively is through a multi-sectoral approach for prevention, protection and response including the provision of essential services of health, police, justice and psycho-social. I am in particular delighted to note that the handbook also makes provision to respond to mental health needs of victims and survivors which is not often addressed," said Gayle.