WINDHOEK - An epidemiologist from Uganda who spent two months in Namibia on a mission to support the Ministry of Health and Social Services and the World Health Organisation (WHO) country office to support the Hepatitis E response says behaviour change is needed to stop the spread of the disease.
Dr Brian Asiimwe who was brought in by the ministry through the WHO country office said if people embraced hygienic habits, the spread of the disease will be contained drastically.
Namibia declared a Hepatitis E outbreak in December last year. “Behaviour change takes some time. It can’t be done overnight. Once handwashing is embedded in the communities’ practices and daily habits, then the outbreak will stop,” Asiimwe informed New Era.
In the meantime, there is need to assure that there is sufficient clean water, increased sanitation facilities, especially in informal settlements and creating awareness, stated Asiimwe.
“If recommendations are implemented, we are sure in six months or a year the disease will not be there. You might still get one or two cases but it will eventually stop.”
The cases of Hepatitis E are on decline in the north and northeast regions, though they still persist in Khomas and Erongo regions, noted Asiimwe. This is partly due to poor set-ups in the informal settlements of Havana, Goreangab and DRC in Erongo (Swakopmund), where the disease remains prevalent, stated the Ugandan epidemiologist.
“The informal settlements are more populated in these two regions than other regions in the north. We have observed a decline of new cases in the northern regions and Erongo cases have gone down a bit,” added the epidemiologist.
He emphasised the need for intensive community mobilisation. “It is happening but at a low scale, so we are recommending that the volunteers trained by WHO be the foot soldiers in communities in informal settlements to reach every household,” explained Asiimwe.
He also recommended that community health workers of the Ministry of Health and Social Services should equally continue with moblisations by giving the right messages to the communities, especially on handwashing.
“Handwashing practices are not good and we know that for this disease, the main route of transmission is faecal oral, eating faeces through contaminated water or food. If these people can reach the households and tell them to stop drinking unsafe water, wash their hands after using the toilet, wash hands before preparing food, after cleaning children, then we will stop this disease.”
With some communities practicing open defecation, the disease will continue to spread. “With open defecation faeces are thrown everywhere and that’s where the contamination emanates from,” he stated.
Asiimwe’s main purpose in Namibia was to assess the outbreak response activities, identify gaps and to recommend interventions that would bring the outbreak of Hepatitis E to an end.
2018-12-19 09:59:12 8 months ago