Katrina Jacob Windhoek-The Ministry of Health and Social Services (MoHSS) recently conducted an information sharing meeting in Katutura with traditional healers, in an effort to prevent and reduce the spread of the hepatitis E virus. World Health Organisation emergency officer Dr Allan Mpairwe, during the meeting held at the UN Plaza in Katutura, explained that hepatitis E is a liver disease, caused by infection with hepatitis E virus (HEV), the most recently discovered of the five well-recognised hepatotropic viruses. “Hepatitis E is transmitted through predominantly contaminated drinking water supplies. Hepatitis E has been reported with increased frequency in pregnant women, people who drink excessive alcohol, people on cancer, HIV, and TB treatments, as well as people who take traditional medicine are victims of hepatitis,” he said. Mpairwe warned the community and healers that taking traditional medicine for the cure of hepatitis E is harmful to the liver of patients. On her part, MoHSS national surveillance officer, Selma Robert said that community members are encouraged to maintain hygiene, boil their water, eat warm food, and wash their hands before preparing and eating food. The Ministry of Health and stakeholders such as WHO, UNFPA and City of Windhoek believe that community engagements form a central part of the response, and this needs to be maintained at a high pace for effective response to the outbreak. It was stressed that the arrangement to involve traditional healers in the response was important -as they also see patients and community members at their treatment centres- which could be active surveillance sites for detecting hepatitis E cases. One of the traditional healers confirmed of two patients that visited her centre with symptoms of hepatitis E, adding she referred both of them to the hospital. The health ministry is therefore urging the traditional healers to refer patients to formal health centres should they detect patients with yellow eyeballs. Traditional healer Paulina Hangara appealed to those present that they (tradional healers) be recognised as health stakeholders for them to work effectively with the government. Another healer, Mama Africa, who is reportedly studying at a South African institute to become a traditional healer, said that the South African government has recognised traditional healers – isangoma - and when hospitals cannot attend to certain health cases, the traditional healers are called to assist, she said. “There is a need of an association for traditional healers in Namibia. The Ministry of Health and Social Services should look into that. If there was an association, these types of meetings will also attract more audiences,” another healer, Isak Choba, told the gathering. The meeting was expected to see a total of about 150 healers mainly from Havana, Goreagab and similar localities around Windhoek district -inclusive of community leaders; however, only 15 healers from the Khomas and Erongo regions, attended. * Katrina Jacob is an information officer with the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology in Windhoek.
2018-01-23 09:12:34 8 months ago