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By: Justicia Shipena

The health ministry has rejected a new report by Amnesty International, which found that members of the San community are denied access to health care.

According to health executive director Ben Nangombe for Amnesty International, the report to state that the government is somehow engaging in discriminatory practices against the san community is incorrect and is not part of government policy.

“It is entirely incorrect for Amnesty International to be arguing that the government is discriminating. That is nonsensical!” lauded Nangombe.

Nangombe said discrimination is illegal in Namibia and called the argument gibberish.

“How can it be argued that the government making the policies for the people is engaging in discrimination against one section of the population? The ministry provides health care services to people without discrimination.”

Nangombe added that the provision of health care services in the country are provided to members of the public regardless of their ethnic group.

“We are a constitutional democracy, and for anybody to come from outside and tell us that we have a policy that is discriminating is wrong,” he explained.

Speaking to The Villager, Nangombe said he had invited Amnesty International to provide the correct details in this matter.

“If Amnesty International wanted this information, they should have approached us. We only heard that they came to the country and they went to the communities. Why did they not come to head office? Why did they not seek an appointment with me as the executive director of the health ministry?” questioned Nangombe.

Nangombe further added that the recommendations in the report are based on issues and policy adoption that exist already.

According to him, the ministry investigates incidents where a person feels mistreated.

He also said community-based care for TB patients was pioneered in Omaheke and extended to Tsumkwe before it was rolled out to other regions.

“We put in place community consultations in those specific areas to deal with the situation of TB. In the Tsumkwe area where the burden of TB resistance is high, we establish the first care centre for drugs resistance at the clinic,” he said.

Moreover, Nangombe said there is a mobile van that assists in providing health care services in communities.

“We have the strategic plan for TB and leprosy, and in this plan, we specifically identified the san community as a vulnerable group so that we can focus services in those areas.”

Data from the ministry indicates that the health ministry in 2020 conducted assessments for the mobile communities, including the san people.

In the report, Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for East and Southern Africa, accused the government of ignoring the health needs of the san community.

“For years, Namibian authorities have ignored the healthcare needs of the San people, including those battling tuberculosis, leaving them at the risk of death,” Muchena said.

Muchena lauded that it’s time the authorities stopped neglecting the San people and recognised their right to health care services.

“Most government healthcare facilities are located far away from San communities, yet the Namibian authorities do not have alternatives put in place, such as mobile health clinics and services. As a result, thousands of San people are falling through the cracks.”

The report states that another significant obstacle preventing San people from receiving better medical care is the language barrier.

According to Amnesty International, a patient told them that nurses at health facilities speak to the san people in English.

“Nurses also give facial expressions that let you know that they don’t want to help.”

The report states that another San person was accused of lying about their symptoms when they complained of TB related ailments.

Furthermore, Amnesty International is calling on Namibian authorities to urgently take steps, in policy and practice, to ensure the right to health of all people, including the San.

The report called on the government to take immediate steps to ensure accessibility of primary healthcare facilities in line with the minimum core human rights standards.

Justicia Shipena

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