Deputy health minister Utjiua Ester Muinjangue says oral health is not a luxury, but a fundamental human right and Namibia’s journey to achieving universal health coverage should prioritise oral health.
She stated that by the relevant stakeholders working together, it can be ensuring that everyone in Namibia enjoys the benefits of receiving quality oral healthcare – the ability to smile with confidence, eat without pain, and lead a life of well-being and dignity.
“Factors contributing to oral diseases include an unhealthy diet high in sugar, smoking, harmful use of alcohol, poor hygiene and other social determinants. These are the same factors also responsible for non-communicable diseases (NCDs),” stated Muinjangue while addressing members of the community during the Oral Health Awareness Campaign in Rundu.
Under the theme ‘Be proud of your mouth’, the campaign presents unique opportunities to prioritise oral health to contribute directly to reducing NCDs and their associated risk factors.
Muinjangue said in this context, and in line with the WHO Regional Oral Health Strategy 2016-2025: Integrating oral health into NCDs prevention and control towards Universal Health Coverage (UHC), Namibia has prioritised access to quality oral health services as part of its Universal Health Coverage agenda.
She said: “Oral health is often referred to as the ‘window to our overall health’.” It is not merely about having a beautiful smile; it is rather a cornerstone of our health and quality of life. The state of our teeth and gums directly impacts our ability to eat, speak, and maintain our overall health, she said.
The World Health Organisation states that most oral health conditions are largely preventable and can be treated in their early stages.
Most cases are dental caries (tooth decay), periodontal diseases, tooth loss and oral cancers while other oral conditions of public health importance are orofacial clefts, noma (severe gangrenous disease starting in the mouth mostly affecting children) and oro-dental trauma.
The Kavango East Regional Directorate for Health and Social Welfare Services has taken various initiatives which are all geared towards ensuring that the community of this region has access to oral health services.
The biggest of such initiatives was being granted, as per their request, this state-of-the-art mobile dental clinic from the national level, which the directorate has been using to conduct outreach services even to the most remote areas like Ncaute.
“The outreach that we have been doing are fruitful, the mobile truck has everything and it is always great to have the ability to go to the people and offer services there, they do not need to come to the clinic,” said the region’s acting regional health director Woita Kapumburu.
He told Vital Signs in terms of statistics, they haven’t outlined common oral issues in the region apart from the usual removal of teeth and so forth.
“I am still waiting for a consolidated report to highlight everything and this includes common oral issues in the region and the number of people who have been using the service of the mobile clinic,” he stated.
Kapumburu added the outreach is supposed to be an annual approach; but was hindered by administrative issues like the absence of a regional chief dentist, who has now been identified.
“She has been getting tours of the region to acquaint herself with the area and all is a work in progress. We are looking at expanding oral health services, we have identified a facility at a clinic here in Rundu for people to access dental services,” he informed.
Furthermore, the regional directorate has been rendering outreach oral health services to orphanages as well as to the two correctional facilities, the Divundu and the Elizabeth Nepemba Correctional Facility.
Additionally, oral outreach services are also being rendered at Nyangana and Andara District hospitals, with the Covid-19 Isolation Facility at Andara District Hospital having been repurposed to provide oral health services, which were initially being provided at Shadikongoro clinic.