Windhoek, 3 May April 2011 – The World Health Organization has received nearly USD 251,000 ( N$1.7m) from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to respond to the health impact of the country’s worst flooding in decades. The floods have affected more than 230,000 people and as many as 40 health clinics and 180 outreach health points were rendered inaccessible in the regions of Oshana, Ohangwena, Omusati, and Caprivi. Consequently, many flood-affected people particularly in isolated communities have limited to no access to health care.
WHO Representative, Dr Magda Robalo says, “Although the floods are receding with access to health improving, there are still health concerns such as the potential risk of disease outbreaks. These funds will therefore be used to support the Ministry of Health and Social Services (MOHSS) strengthen disease surveillance and provide essential health services to communities in the relocation centres and those in cut-off places. These services will include immunization, antenatal care for pregnant women, and ensure that they deliver their babies in safe and hygienic conditions. Also, we will ensure that those on chronic life-saving medicines such as insulin, blood pressure, Antiretroviral (ARV), anti-Tuberculosis (TB) medication have access to them so that they do not default. We will continue to provide technical support to the MoHSS to coordinate the health response.”
Floods began earlier with increasing magnitude than usual, along with higher water levels, rendering this year’s floods more severe than in 2009. Inaccessibility to health facilities has compromised health service delivery to people with chronic diseases. This is likely to disrupt access to life-saving medications, such as insulin, ARVs, anti-TB medicines. Additionally, the nutritional status of children, the elderly and the chronically ill may worsen over the next 3 months unless additional food relief is provided until the next harvest.
Dr Robalo warns that the floods will affect government’s efforts to ensure high vaccination coverage’s for children under five years since they are at risk of missing their routine schedule of vaccinations. Although malaria cases in the affected regions are currently below 2010 levels as the same period last year, the large stagnant pools of water will result in increased mosquito vectors. This combined with the fact that the community’s immunity to malaria is expected to have declined due to the 60% decrease in malaria since 2001; there is an increased risk of a malaria epidemic. Close monitoring of malaria through the surveillance system and provision of mosquito nets is thus essential. The floods have also caused a slight increase in watery diarrhoea cases in some regions compared to last year but far below epidemic levels. WHO through its regional sub-office in Oshakati continues to support the affected northern regions to monitor and investigate diarrhoea cases for the early detection of any outbreaks.
“As rains are expected to continue to June, we may see greater needs for emergency assistance. WHO remains vigilant and will continue to provide the necessary support to the MoHSS and out partners to ensure that the flood affected people have access to health services in the affected region,” notes Dr Robalo.’’