Namibia has in recent months seen an upsurge in malaria in the north and the northeastern regions despite previously having made enormous gains to roll back malaria infections and deaths.
Hepatitis E cases have also shot up in the informal settlements, where this poor man’s disease brings havoc because of lack of proper sanitation, lack of ablution facilities and where accessing clean drinking water remains a huge challenge and where residents mainly low-income groups use nearby riverbeds to relieve themselves whenever nature calls.
The resurgent of the two diseases comes at a time when Namibia has committed huge amounts of financial resources to prevent the spread of the global pandemic Covid-19.
The Minister of Health and Social Services, Dr Kalumbi Shangula has expressed concern about the resurgent of malaria in the north and northeastern regions where cases are now prevalent and also about the sharp increase in Hepatitis E cases specifically in Havana, Hakahana and in Okuryangava. Namibia had previously received international accolades in its fight against malaria, a disease that declined with 97% because of its concerted surveillance of malaria, its global provision of insecticide-treated mosquito nets and treating those infected with malaria and the seasonal spraying of households in the affected areas.
But it seems the current resurgence in malaria cases is somehow mainly to complacency. On the other hand, Namibian authorities seem not to have prioritised the provision of running water taps and flushing toilets and proper sanitation in the informal settlements where many of the urban poor reside. The proliferation of informal settlements has brought about complex challenges.
This issue should be looked at through the lenses of what happened after Namibia got its independence from the minority apartheid regime that systemically provided inadequate social infrastructure to areas where the majority of Namibians lived.
At independence, there was an exponential increase in rural-urban migration mainly from the agro-pastoral northern regions from where people migrated to urban areas in search of jobs and a better life. Most of the people who have been migrating to towns and cities cannot afford formal housing, resorted to building temporary shacks without proper toilets and ablution, and did not have running water. The drivers of this migration that continues to this day is the lack of jobs in rural areas though government has done its best to provide jobs in rural areas where tens of thousands of teachers, police and other government employees and those working for state owned enterprises are employed.
Like noted earlier, the informal settlements are characterised by limited access to basic services such as running water and toilets. On the issue of malaria, Namibia made significant progress over the past decade but the ongoing threat is being attributed by health experts to malaria importation from across the country’s borders. 2020 is the year in which Namibia would have eliminated malaria but this dream will again be deferred.
The resurgence of malaria and Hepatitis E cases is being compounded by the emergency of the completely different health pandemic in the form of Covid-19 that requires huge amounts of money and it has caused the loss of jobs and upended the social and economic order.
That said, Covid-19 will not go away very soon, it is here to stay and as we speak, the most developed global powers are in a race to develop a vaccine for this pandemic. As for the elimination of malaria and Hepatitis E, it seems Namibia still has a long way to go, despite the praiseworthy efforts initiated by the ministry of health that would require more financial resources to fight the existing scourge and other future pandemics.
2020-05-22 10:28:05 | 8 days ago