In terms of the impact of human resources for health (HRH) on Namibia’s socio-economic growth, health minister Dr Kalumbi Shangula recently stated that for every unit increase of essential health workers per 1 000 people, there is a corresponding improvement in overall life expectancy at birth of 2.78 years.
This, in in turn, accelerates the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate of the Namibian economy by 1.67% for every year of life expectancy added.
Accordingly, government has since independence made concerted efforts to improve the health and social wellbeing of Namibians through the implementation of various strategic health policies and initiatives.
For this reason, the Ministry of Health and Social Services was established with the mandate to ensure citizens have the rights to fair and reasonable access to public health facilities and services in accordance with Namibian laws.
These rights are further derived from various government policies and legislation with regards to the protection of the health and welfare of Namibians. The ministry is, therefore, expected to broaden, oversee and regulate public as well as private and non-governmental sectors in the provision of quality health and social
The said ministry is also tasked with ensuring equity, accessibility, affordability and sustainability in the sector.
According to an analysis on human resources for health in Namibia report, these efforts have resulted in significant improvements in HIV epidemic control, increased life expectancy, better disease management, improved maternal health outcomes, child survival and health outcomes across different indicators.
These improvements are also associated with increases in the number of skilled health workers in the country since independence. Nevertheless, the Namibian health system continues to face increased human resources for health demands as it moves towards the attainment of Vision 2030.
Sector performance since 2015
Ease of fiscal consolidation by central government, coupled with the increase in Covid-19 cases reported in Namibia, resulted in high demand for health workers, resulting in improved performance for the health sector, registering a good growth in value added. In 2015, the health and social work sector estimated a very slow growth of 1.3% in the first quarter of 2015 after recording a strong growth of 45.8% recorded in the same quarter of 2014. The health sector was then estimated to have recorded a decline of 4.7% in real value added in the first quarter of 2016, compared to a negative growth of 2.9% in the corresponding quarter of 2015.
During the first quarter of 2017, the sector recorded a slow growth of 7.1% in real value added, compared to the 12.5% in the corresponding quarter of 2016.
Improved performance was then observed in the sector during the first quarter of 2019, which posted growths in real value added of 1.3% and 2.4%, compared to declines of 5% and 5.8%, respectively, of the corresponding quarter for 2018.
This was mainly attributable to the easing of fiscal consolidation by central government as recruitment of positions in the health and education sectors were resumed.
During the difficult 2020, in which Namibia recorded its first Covid-19 positive case in March, the health sector registered a growth of 2.3% in real value added. This was due to an increase in the number of health workers, which enabled the sector to improve its performance, compared to a decline of 6.5% in 2019.
Accelerated growth in the health sector is owed to the easing of fiscal consolidation policies and coupled with the emergence of the pandemic. The emergence of Covid resulted in increased activities and more health worker employment to assist in containing the disease.
Similarly, in 2021, growth of the health sector remains on a positive trajectory, registering a double-digit growth of 12.8% in real value added during the first quarter of 2021 when compared to a marginal growth of 0.8% registered in the first quarter of 2020. The sustained growth is mainly attributed to the increased numbers of health personnel brought in to combat the spread of the pandemic and to meet the increasing demand for health services.