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Govt denies San discrimination

2021-10-06  Kuzeeko Tjitemisa

Govt denies San discrimination
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Health ministry executive director Ben Nangombe has objected to an Amnesty International report, which alleges discrimination against the San.

The rights group claims rampant discrimination against the San people such as denying them access to healthcare and leaving them vulnerable to deadly diseases such as tuberculosis (TB) and its multi-drug resistant strain. Nangombe in an information note to the rights group this week said the challenge is rather that of a language barrier, which is well known and acknowledged.

“Not many trained health workers can speak San dialects,” he said.

“The ministry has made a concerted effort to enrol San-speaking Namibians as healthcare workers, including for nursing and other community work.”

He added government went further to relax entry requirements for training, provided full scholarships and preferential employment in the public service.

Regrettably, he said, not all those who have completed their training choose to return to the areas they hail from.

Nangombe said within the scope, the National TB and Leprosy Programme (NTLP) has encouraged the recruitment of San-speaking community health workers in those areas where they are, and this has been the case in Tsumkwe where most San people reside.    

In the report, embargoed for today, Amnesty accused Namibian authorities of having ignored the healthcare needs of the San people, including those battling tuberculosis, leaving them at the risk of death.

The report claims, the San people, as the most marginalised group in Namibia, often lack access to essential social services such as healthcare and education and are the only ethnic group in Namibia whose health status has declined since independence in 1990. 

“It is time the authorities stop neglecting the San people, recognise their right to health and ensure access to healthcare like any other people in Namibia,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for East and Southern Africa.

“Namibia carries one of the highest burdens of TB, and the multi-drug resistant strain of the disease in the world, and studies indicate that the burden of TB among the San people is almost 40% higher than the national average,” the report reads.

Despite these human rights obligations, the report added the San people battling TB face numerous barriers to healthcare in Namibia.

“Higher rates of poverty mean many communities struggle to buy medicine or pay for transport to distant health facilities for treatment. Living in remote rural areas, San people often face an arduous journey to get to the nearest hospital or clinic which can be up to 80 kilometres away, with poor road networks,” the report reads.

Namibia has the eighth highest incidence of TB in the world with an estimated 36% of TB cases going untreated (missing TB patients) in 2019. 

The WHO ranks Namibia amongst the top 30 countries globally with the highest estimated TB incidence rate and highest TB incidence among people living with HIV.

Last year, according to the health ministry data, the total number of tuberculosis (TB) cases reported were 6 537 which was a significant reduction of 15.3% from the 2019 number of TB cases.

The cases notification rate (CNR) in 2020, based on the burden of all forms of active TB, also decreased to 263 cases per 100 000 populations, from 314 per 100 000 in 2019. 





2021-10-06  Kuzeeko Tjitemisa

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