There is hardly a speech at local or international level where Namibia’s political leaders do not mention the fact that this country is a child of international solidarity.
Often, we are told Namibia is a friend to all and an enemy to no one. We are told this and that country is our all-weather friend; we glorify their contribution to our liberation struggle and roll out the red carpet for anyone who seeks our vote or support on international bodies or when their businesses want to exploit our raw materials on the cheap.
Where are our friends when we need vaccines urgently? The country has received donations of 100 000 Sinopharm doses from China, 30 000 AstraZeneca doses from India and 67 200 doses through the Covax facility.
We also appreciate the support from Germany and Finland.
A combination of our friends is leaving us in the lurch (while they return to normal), not buying enough vaccines on time, rich nations acting selfishly and manufacturers disregarding the seriousness and urgency conspired to leave us woefully short just as the deadliest of waves hit the country.
Ministry of health executive director Ben Nangombe last week said, “We have ordered vaccinations that we have already paid for through the Covax facility. These were supposed to come much earlier. We are told they are coming in July, but experience has taught us that these deadlines are not always met. That is one of the reasons we find ourselves in the situation we are in”.
All of a sudden, the vaccines are in demand, but there is none to administer.
This week, Namibia vaccinated only a handful of people after the authorities scrambled a plan and took doses from areas where uptake was slow and scrapped administering the second dose so they can cover as many as possible with at least the first dose.
For the first six days of July, Namibia only administered 4 875 first doses, bringing to a total 125 970 the number of people who received the first dose.
So far, only 26 937 have been fully vaccinated.
The World Health Organisation has rightly referred to rich nations’ hoarding of more vaccines than they would ever need as “vaccine apartheid” and called on those members to share.
Their selfishness has caused thousands of deaths.
Pharmaceutical companies have insisted poorer countries pay exorbitant prices upfront for the much-needed vaccines and have been tardy in delivery.
Many would argue, with merit, that we too should play hardball with whatever and whenever we hold the upper hand.
Put Africa or Namibia first and not just give away the store at the first signs of flattery from the superpowers.
But we rarely hold the trump card. The fact that an entire continent with over one billion people did not have a single facility that could develop its vaccines is a matter of grave concern.
We should start equipping and capacitating ourselves so we do not have to beg when we are hit by a crisis.
It certainly does not feel like Namibia enjoys or is afforded any privileges as a child of international solidarity. It looks more and more like we are the red-headed stepchild of the world.