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Health Extension Workers to Reach Communities with Essential Health Services in Namibia

No child should die of preventable diseases in Namibia

Té / 9 October 2012

Thirty four first ever government led community outreach workers, are honored with certificates after been equipped with vital skills that will help save the lives of women and children in the hard to reach terrains of Kunene region.

This cadre of community workers (locally called Health Extension Workers), have completed six months training in health related issues. The initiative which was launched in April this year through a partnership between Ministry of Health and Social Services (MoHss), UNICEF, United states Agency for International Development (USAID) Namibia and the private sector company Teck Namibia Ltd, aims to develop the skills and capacity of the Health extension workers (HEWs) to enable them to improve the health outcomes and quality of life in households and communities especially those in hard to reach areas.

Speaking at the graduation ceremony, the Minister of Health and Social Services said that ”Namibia is committed to achieving internationally-agreed health goals, including the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) by 2015”

“Therefore, the establishment of health extension in Kunene, would accelerate the promotion of health awareness and build local community’s capacity for greater involvement and participation in primary health care interventions” said Dr. Kamwi.

Kunene region is one of the most sparsely populated regions in the country with 0.6 persons per square km. It has one of the toughest terrains – making it difficult to reach households with much needed lifesaving interventions for children Kunene also has one of the lowest rates of skilled birth attendant at delivery for pregnant women and low under 5 immunization completion rates. Government reports show that in 2010 only 29% of the region’s population was reached through the existing 91 health outreach points.

While progress has been made in increasing coverage of interventions that could substantially have an impact on health MDGs, reports further indicate that there is huge gap in coverage between the poor and rich quintile and more so between rural and urban settings.

“Realising the rights of all Namibia’s children to equitable quality health services requires innovation and a critical mass of community health extension workers to reach the hardest to reach and most vulnerable families,” said the UNICEF Representative Ms. Micaela Marques De Sousa.

Namibia is among countries in Sub-Sahara Africa that has witnessed the reversal in child mortality due to the impact of HIV on communities and more so on service delivery. Outreach services suffer mainly due to staff shortage and lack of transport. Government reports indicate that Child mortality has increased from 62 per 1000 live births in 2000 to 69 per 1000 live births in 2006. Majority of these children die because they are not reached on time.

“This is the most cost-effective way through which we can avert many young children and women from dying of preventable causes everywhere in Namibia,” Ms. De Sousa said.

This initiative will therefore enable government to address both the supply and demand side especially at community and household levels by resolving inherent systems bottlenecks for sustained achievement of results.

Demonstrating the political will and commitment of government to reaching the most difficult to reach population, DrKamwi said “The introduction of this new cadre will improve the number of health care providers available in the community and serve as a link between health facilities and communities.”

Meaning that the deployment of Health Extension Workers in villages, will lay an indispensible infrastructure to institutionalize community based health care and is in line with the National Health Strategic Plan of MoHSS.

“The health Extension Workers programme in Namibia is a result of solid partnerships and leadership of the Ministry of Health and Social services” said USAID Health Office Director Ms. Melissa Jones

“USAID is proud to be part of this innovative intervention that will save lives in Kunene region and exemplifies the efforts of the United States Government in actualizing its Global Health Initiative strategy in Namibia, which is to improve access for underserved and vulnerable populations,” said Ms. Jones

This initiative has been made possible through the leadership of the Ministry of Health and Social Services with technical and financial contribution from USAID, FHI 360/C-Change project, private sector (Teck Namibia Ltd), UNICEF, WHO and other UN agencies.

WINDHOEK, Namibia, October 8, 2012/African Press Organization (APO)

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