Bolster fight against hepatitis E

The World Health Organisation has urged Namibia to urgently step up its methods to fight hepatitis E and put an end to the prolonged outbreak.

22 August 2019 | Health

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has again urged Namibia to boost its response to the protracted hepatitis E outbreak which has claimed the lives of 56 people and infected more than 6 000 over the past two years.

Meanwhile, since the onset of the outbreak in September 2017, the hepatitis E virus has become the leading cause of maternal deaths according to Dr Lilian Kahuika, an epidemiologist in the health ministry.

Of the 56 hepatitis E deaths recorded by 11 August, 23 were maternal deaths. A fatality is defined as maternal when a woman dies during pregnancy or within 42 days of termination of pregnancy.

Kahuika said the women who died from hepatitis E before or after giving birth were between 19 and 38 years old.

The latest statistics show that the number of hepatitis E infections have eclipsed the 6 000 mark, with a total number of 6 151 cases reported by 11 August.

The statistics further show that of the cases reported, 342 were maternal cases.

Former health minister Dr Bernard Haufiku, who heads the national health emergency management committee in response to the outbreak, warned earlier this month that hepatitis E was a growing threat to public health in Namibia.

“If the current situation is allowed to continue unabated, hepatitis E will become endemic in Namibia and Namibia will struggle to get rid of the virus in the community and we may actually never get rid of it at all,” he said.

WHO warning

The WHO's weekly bulletin on public health emergencies in Africa repeats its earlier warning to Namibian authorities to step up efforts to stop the outbreak.

The report says although a slight dip in new infections in recent weeks is encouraging, “a lot more work needs to be done to drastically interrupt transmission of infections”.

The WHO notes that ongoing efforts to respond to the outbreak are “still being hindered by many factors, including weak coordination at all levels, inadequate risk communication and community engagement and participation, and low levels of safe water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) interventions.”

Moreover, the report stresses that poor sanitation and scarce access to safe drinking water in informal settlements compound the situation.

Although a national hepatitis E plan has been drawn up, it has not yet been ratified by the authorities and is not adequately resourced, it says.


The first cases of hepatitis E were reported in the Khomas Region in September 2017.

Of the 6 151 cases reported by 11 August, the Khomas Region's informal settlements remain the hardest hit, with a total of 3 894 (63%) of all reported cases detected in some of the country's poorest neighbourhoods. Thirty-five of the 56 deaths reported to date were recorded in the Khomas Region.

The Erongo Region has reported the second highest number of

1 393 cases (23% of the total) and six deaths.

Increased hepatitis testing at health facilities has also led to the diagnosis of 137 hepatitis A cases, of which 81 were recorded in the Omusati Region this year, as well as 168 cases of hepatitis B, of which 61 were recorded in the Omusati Region.

“I have said it time and again, that hepatitis E and even A are diseases of poverty and low socio-economic status, where there is a lack of clean water and poor personal hygiene,” Haufiku told Namibian Sun.

He said although several campaigns are under way to curb the outbreak, there is a strong push to consider alternative options, “as our current intervention seem not to take us anywhere”.

He said the teams are “looking at all potential and available options including considerations for a vaccine against hepatitis E, because we simply cannot allow the situation to continue as it is now.”


Similar News


Hospital ­denies Itula ­allegation

4 hours ago | Health

The regional directorate of health for Ohangwena has denied an allegation by independent presidential candidate Panduleni Itula that a patient at Eenhana district hospital had...

Kavango Catholic hospitals in danger of closure

3 days ago - 11 November 2019 | Health

Management of five Catholic Health Services (CHS) hospitals in the two Kavango regions say they may have to close shop if no further monetary allocation...

Chinese restore vision in Windhoek

3 days ago - 11 November 2019 | Health

The health ministry, with the assistance of the Chinese government represented by its vice-premier Sun Chunlan, on Friday launched its telemedicine approach and at the...

Caring CAN change a life

6 days ago - 08 November 2019 | Health

Evany van Wyk In June 2015, Rolf Hansen was appointed as the third chief executive officer of the Cancer Association of Namibia (CAN) since...

Battle to stop hepatitis E turning endemic

2 weeks ago - 28 October 2019 | Health

JANA-MARI SMITH With more than 6 500 suspected cases of hepatitis E detected in 13 of Namibia’s 14 regions since the outbreak...

Free cancer screening at Nkurenkuru today

2 weeks ago - 25 October 2019 | Health

KENYA KAMBOWE The Ongwediva Medipark Private Hospital, in conjunction with the office of the former first lady Penexupifo Pohamba, will today conduct...

Corridor Group helps with special delivery

3 weeks ago - 24 October 2019 | Health

Nurses from the Walvis Bay Corridor Group's (WBCG) Wellness Clinic at Oshikango recently rushed to assist a woman who went into labour at the Oshikango...

ACC probes exam 'cheating'

3 weeks ago - 23 October 2019 | Health

The Health Professions Council of Namibia (HPCNA) has roped in the services of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) to investigate allegations that cheating had rocked the...

Hepatitis deaths slow down

1 month - 04 October 2019 | Health

The ongoing hepatitis E outbreak has not claimed any further lives over the past two months, with the fatality rate remaining at 55 since August....

Increasing the volume

1 month - 01 October 2019 | Health

Ester KamatiThe Namibia University of Science and Technology (Nust) public relations campaigns and special events class, along with Student Representative Council (SRC) and Nust clinic,...

Latest News

Namcor ready to run fuel...

4 hours ago | Business

The Petroleum Corporation of Namibia (Namcor) expects to take delivery of the strategic fuel storage facility next month, a company official has told Namibian Sun....

How the 'sharks' were netted

4 hours ago | Fishing

An international scandal has erupted with an exposé of more than 30 000 documents released by WikiLeaks which show that an Icelandic fishing company, SAMHERJI,...

NSFAF explains payment woes

4 hours ago | Education

The Namibia Student Financial Assistance Fund (NSFAF) has blamed the delayed payment of non-tuition fees to students on the unavailability of funds and its internal...

Hospital ­denies Itula ­allegation

4 hours ago | Health

The regional directorate of health for Ohangwena has denied an allegation by independent presidential candidate Panduleni Itula that a patient at Eenhana district hospital had...

Devil's claw under threat

4 hours ago | Environment

The increase in illegal grazing in the Nyae Nyae Conservancy and Community Forest, as well as illegal fences in the N#a Jaqna Conservancy and Community...

More dark days ahead

4 hours ago | Sports

The Fifa normalisation committee says it still has to consult its lawyers before making a decision on the way forward for the Namibia Premier League...

Mining tourney hailed as a...

4 hours ago | Sports

A three-day tournament that featured different mining employees from across the country, which took place at Otjiwarongo from Friday to Sunday, has been described as...

They have to go, says...

17 hours ago | Crime

Staff ReporterHighly placed sources indicated this morning that President Hage Geingob is planning to jettison justice minister Sacky Shanghala and fisheries minister Bernhardt Esau from...

Namibian arrested in Malaysia for...

1 day - 13 November 2019 | Crime

A 26-year-old Namibian man has been arrested in Malaysia on suspicion of strangling and dismembering his Nigerian girlfriend. The man was arrested on Saturday in...

Load More