WHO and Namibia Red Cross announce strategy to avert disease outbreaks

Report
from Namibia Red Cross Society, World Health Organization
Published on 10 May 2011

Windhoek: 10 May 2011 - The World Health Organization (WHO) Country office in Namibia and the Namibian Red Cross Society (NRCS) today announced its joint health strategy to respond to the flood emergency. Following a consultative meeting, both partners agreed for the need to intensify health promotion and hygiene education interventions, strengthen disease surveillance and ensure that communities access health services using both organizations’ key strengths.

Noting that prevention is better than cure, WHO will provide training to about 200 Red Cross volunteers on health promotion to avert disease outbreaks. Also, given the need for health workers and epidemiologists to have timely access to disease data, WHO will provide training on gathering disease surveillance to ensure a swift response to potential disease outbreaks.

According to preliminary data that WHO helped compile and analyse, at present, 17,000 diarrhoeal cases have been reported between January to April 2011 in Oshana, Ohangwena, Omusati, Oshikoto, Caprivi and Kavango regions compared to 24,000 during the same period in 2010. Health access is improving with the percentage of health outreach points inaccessible in the flood affected regions reducing from 50% in early April to about 20% now. Despite this, 10% of health facilities remain completely cut-off due to inaccessible roads.

WHO Representative, Dr Magda Robalo says, “Although floods are receding, the risk of communicable diseases outbreaks remains high due to, stagnant water, poor sanitation and inadequate access to potable water. There is also a continued need for health promotion, increased use of insecticide treated mosquito nets and continued access to adequate nutrition by children under five, pregnant women and the elderly as well as people with compromised immune system.”

Adding further, the NRCS, Executive Secretary, Ms Dorcas Kapembe-Haiduwa says, “This consultation is extremely timely and as we are on the ground, we are able to assess gaps and ensure that the Red Cross and its volunteers are able to disseminate health information and work with WHO to reduce the impact of potential disease outbreaks.”

During the 2009 flood emergency, WHO provided training in emergency preparedness and response and health education and promotion to 144 Red Cross staff and volunteers in the six affected region. As a result of the improved surveillance and health education and rapid interventions, no major disease outbreaks were reported. This training is an expanded version of the training provided in 2009 and will be covered using a portion of the recent donation of USD 250,000 (N$1.7m) from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to WHO. “We recognise that we need to continue to be proactive and this collaborative effort with the Red Cross will ensure that we minimize the further impact of the flooding and potential disease outbreaks as flood water recede, emphasized Dr Robalo.”

For further information and for interviews with WHO Representative Dr Magda Robalo and the Red Cross contact:

Communications & Advocacy Officer: Michelle Thulkanam - email: thulkanamm@na.afro.who.int, Ph- +26461-255-191 / Cell: +264-81-423-0556.