Health officials from Namibia and Angola gathered in Rundu for a three-day meeting to discuss strategies on strengthening cross-border collaboration for effective control of Hepatitis E virus.
Other issues discussed include severe acute malnutrition, guinea worm disease and other infectious disease interventions along the common border between the two countries.
According to the health director for Kavango East region Timea Ngwira, the meeting was convened after the two countries were battling with the Hepatitis E (HEV) virus outbreak since 2017, amidst the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.
"As of April 2021, a cumulative total of 8 071 Hepatitis E cases and 66 deaths were reported. Of the total deaths recorded, 27 were maternal. HEV cases reported in Namibia included a few Angolan nationals, mainly from Cunene province," Ngwira said.
She further noted since 2019, there has been a decline in the new HEV infections being recorded. About 2 600 cases were reported in 2019 while 983 cases were recorded in 2020.
Opening the joint meeting on Tuesday, Kavango East governor Bonifatius Wakudumo called on the participants to develop surveillance network approaches on Hepatitis E and other public health threats alongside the Namibian-Angolan border.
"Cross border networks should include meetings of surveillance persons at a common venue, information sharing through wireless networks, undertaking similar events along the border in the event of diseases outbreaks and where possible exchanging technical capacities to address common challenges. This may require common guidelines and at times policy modifications," he said.
In addition, the governor indicated cooperating with neighbouring countries such as Angola in responding to health issues along the border are more sustainable and cost-effective in many ways, especially in the prevention of recurrence of similar diseases.
Dr Sikota Zeko, a representative of the World Health Organisation office in Namibia, pledged to continue supporting both countries in their cross-border collaboration efforts at both national and regional levels. He believes that this joint co-operation will strengthen health systems and scale up preparedness and response of infectious diseases.