WINDHOEK - As the country continues to battle with the Hepatitis E nearly two years after the initial outbreak was declared, some residents of Havana, the epicenter of the disease are struggling to maintain hygiene which is the main underlying cause of the poor man’s disease.
The disease was declared an outbreak in December 2017.
Hepatitis E is a liver disease caused by the Hepatitis E virus and is usually spread by the fecal-oral route.
New Era yesterday visited the informal settlement of Havana and witnessed first-hand the filthy conditions in some parts of the settlement caused by people seemingly not bothered by their situation.
Dirty toilet water, people defecating in the open air and throwing litter in the open were some of the scenes that greeted us.
Martin David, the councillor of the Moses Garoëb constituency in which part of Havana is located said the disease is spreading unabated because some people are not adhering strictly to good hygiene practices.
David said there will be a public awareness campaign in the area next week to re-emphasis the importance of maintaining hygiene.
“When you drive in Havana you will see filthy toilet water, people relieving themselves in open spaces or nearby bushes. We also have a problem of blocked pipes and you will see very dirty water running in the streets. This is partly caused by the residents who litter causing pipes to be blocked. We are fighting to maintain hygiene but not everybody is on board,” explained David.
Commenting on hygiene, 37-year old Florianna Haimbodi said, “We have very few toilets in Havana and many people sharing those few toilets.”
Asked on the vandalism of toilets, Haimbodi said that people do that at night when they cannot be seen. She tries to maintain hygiene by cleaning her place, keeping clean dishes and washing her hands.
“I wash my hands with soap in a basin but I make sure that the other two members of this household do not wash their hands in the same water. We are trying to maintain hygiene because a neighbour of ours who was diagnosed with Hepatitis E in November last year recently died,” said the Kapana vendor who was cleaning tripe which she sells in the community.
The corrugated shack appeared clean. Another resident of Havana, Anna Johannes who sells sweets, biscuits, and cigarettes at the Havana four-way stop where many informal business activities take place said people do not really care about maintaining hygiene in Havana.
“You can see how filthy the toilets and skipping containers are and we use them daily. Even with a skip container available, there people still prefer to litter in the open,” said Johannes.
The Minister of Health and Social Services, Dr Kalumbi Shangula expressed fear in February that the persisting spread of Hepatitis E to new locations and failure to contain it despite control measures in place could result in it becoming endemic in Namibia.
Statistics from the ministry show that as of January 27, 2019, the total number of Hepatitis E cases reported in Namibia were 4 432.
So far, 40 deaths have been reported and the death toll is disproportionately highest among pregnant women and those who have given birth - constituting 17 cases and translating to 42.5 percent of the deaths so far.
“What I find distressing is the fact that there is an air of indifference towards the outbreak among the public. The presence of the disease seems to be accepted as a norm. The commitment of some of the important stakeholders seems to be declining. The urgency to take drastic measures to contain the disease seems to be waning,” said the health minister in February.
He suggested that the current situation warrants what he termed “shock therapy.” This refers to the sudden and drastic measures taken to solve an intractable problem.
2019-03-07 08:58:35 5 months ago