Health Ministry to expand Health Extension Workers’ programme

WINDHOEK: The Ministry of Health and Social Services is planning to expand the Health Extension Workers’ programme in the next two to three years to reach a national coverage.

Health and Social Services Minister Dr Richard Kamwi announced this on Tuesday when he escorted Madam Yoo (Ban) Soon-Taek on a tour to the Katutura Intermediate Hospital’s antiretroviral therapy (ART) clinic and Windhoek Central Hospital’s Maternity Ward on Tuesday.

Yoo is accompanying her husband, United Nations’ Secretary-General (SG) Ban Ki-moon, to Namibia on a two-day visit.

“Regarding community-based healthcare, we are working hard to bridge the gap between health facilities and communities by modelling the Health Extension Workers’ programme which is now functioning in five regions,” he said.

Kamwi informed his guest that all health prevention services in the country are free of charge with high ante-natal care (ANC) coverage of 95 per cent, institutional delivery rate of 81 per cent and immunisation coverage for children under one year old rated at 83 per cent.

“But we want to do more,” the minister said.

Kamwi said Namibia brought down the number of malaria deaths from around 7 000 in 1990 to only four deaths in 2012.

He added that the country also reduced mother-to-child transmission of HIV rates from 33 per cent in the 2002/03 financial year to four per cent in 2012/13.

The Health Minister stressed that the goal of virtually eliminating mother-to-child transmission of HIV is within their reach and at the national level, the country have reduced new HIV infections by 50 per cent since 2001.

“We are one of the leading countries in the developing world where the government finances more than half of HIV expenditures including ARVs,” he said.

Kamwi noted that about 90 per cent of people with HIV/AIDS in the country have access to the antiretroviral drugs (ARVs), and the country has already adopted the new 2013 World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines to start ARV treatment early, and also treat all children under 15 years of age.

However, the minister noted some of the challenges facing the ministry such as the slow progress in reducing maternal and child mortality; and high stunting rate among children under five years.

“As a result, we may not be able to reach Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Four and Five by 2015, and we need multi-sectoral interventions to tackle the stunting rate beyond the health sector,” he said.