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Namibia Makes Progress On General Health But Serious Challenges Remain

By: Uakutura Kambaekua

Despite Namibia’s breakthrough towards equal access to basic health care and social services, the country’s high-income inequality rate still poses a major challenge to equitable health service delivery.

This predicament, according to  Rinaani Musutua, a trustee of the Economic and Social Justice Trust,  requires donkey-work if the government is to realise its vision of attaining the highest standard of health for all its citizens.

Musutua made these remarks in an interview with this publication ahead of the 75th World Health Day celebrations, normally observed on April 7.

The day was observed at Opuwo in the Kunene region yesterday under the theme “Health for All, 75 Years of improving public health.”

Musutua stated that even though Namibia has made some progress in general healthcare, the government still has much work to do, adding that the country continues to be structurally plagued by high poverty and inequalities which have implications on people’s health.

Notwithstanding the importance of the day, Musutua said that the many dimensions of poverty, leading to harmful living conditions, threaten people’s health.

“World Health Day is important to observe as it aims to raise awareness of health concerns and motivate action from governments to tackle the health challenges we are facing, to attain the highest level of health and well-being for all. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), poverty and poor health are linked. The many dimensions of poverty, leading to harmful living conditions, threaten people’s health,” she said.

Furthermore, she noted that poverty has devastating health consequences on people resulting in a range of serious physical and psychological harms such as higher risks of preventable diseases, shortened life spans, and stunted mental and emotional development.

“Poverty has been linked to the higher pervasiveness of many health conditions, including increased risk of chronic disease, deprived infant development, stress, anxiety, depression, and premature death. The extreme inequalities that continue to exist in Namibia – as a result of a toxic combination of poor social policies, unfair economic arrangements, and bad politics – affect people’s ability to lead a flourishing life and maintain health,” Musutua charged.

She said that despite the sophisticated healthcare facilities in the country, only a small portion of the population is catered for leaving the majority out of reach.

“Healthcare facilities in the country are sophisticated but not always affordable to the poorer part of the population. Certain services like dialysis and organ transplantations are only available from private medical centres, putting them out of reach for the majority of Namibia’s citizens,” Musutua added.

“In 2004, Namibia had 598 physicians and 6,145 midwives and nurses, which slightly exceeds the minimum density recommended by WHO. But those numbers do not reflect that private healthcare facilities are luxuriously staffed while there is a shortage in the public sector,” she further noted.

Musutua was also speaking on behalf of the Basic Income Grant Coalition (BIG), a formation that was instituted to fight for fairness in wealth distribution.

According to her, access to decent healthcare services, housing, sanitation, a living wage, education and sufficient food represent the strongest and most consistent predictors of health and mortality and yet, a large section of Namibia society is unable to meet those basic human needs as they continue to live under harmful living conditions that threaten their health.

Musutua is of the opinion that the majority of illnesses facing Namibians today are the results of poverty which can be addressed by the implementation of the N$500 basic grant per person per month.

“Since poverty and poor health are inseparably linked, and the majority of illnesses that Namibians suffer from are as a result of poverty, the implementation of a no-strings-attached/unconditional Basic Income Grant (BIG) of N$500/person/month for people aged 0-59 – which is scientifically validated to be by far the best way to reduce poverty, malnutrition, illnesses, crime and school dropout – would be the most cost-efficient way through which to improve people’s living conditions,” she said.

Uakutura Kambaekua

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