Exclusive ARV clinics discriminatory - Haufiku

16 May 2018 | Health

Community members in the Okongo constituency say 14 health facilities donated by the US embassy to be used as antiretroviral (ARV) treatment distribution centres have turned into white elephants and should be opened to the general public who are starved of primary healthcare.

In 2016 the US embassy donated 14 community-based clinics to the tune of N$5.2 million, which were to be used exclusively for ARV and tuberculosis treatment.

This is despite the fact that the majority of people in the Ohangwena Region have to walk several kilometres to access primary healthcare.

Ester Hasheela from Oshifitu village said they were excited when Americans donated the clinics, saying the community believed primary healthcare services would now be brought closer to the people. However, to their surprise the clinic near their village is only used to distribute HIV and TB medication.

“We are deep in a remote area without proper road, poor network coverage and no clinic.

We were happy for the donation from the American people, but now it does not serve any purpose,” she said.

“We continue to walk long distances to access primary healthcare services as the clinic is only for TB and HIV patients, which is also fine, but the government need to use these facilities to provide us with all the primary health services here because Okongo and Eenhana, where we get such services, are very far.”

According to Hasheela, Oshifitu and many other areas in Okongo are only accessible by four-wheel-drive vehicles because of thick sand.

She said many ailing community members continue to suffer at home because of lack of transport to Okongo and Eenhana.

Another community member, Velishi Pinehas from Oupili, described the donated clinics as useless because they only operate once a month, while people are suffering daily.

“One cannot get any help from these clinics even if they have simple complaints such as headache or fever. Only HIV patients are benefiting at the moment.

“We need other services to be provided at our clinics. What is the use of having a clinic in your community but still you have no access to primary healthcare services?” Pinehas said.

Approached for comment, health minister Bernhard Haufiku joined the community in slamming the current arrangement at the donated clinics, saying it was discriminatory and was fostering the stigmatisation of those living with HIV and TB.

“You cannot have a clinic in a community that is only assisting HIV patients. This is creating a situation where everybody in the community will know that this one and that one are HIV positive because they are the ones getting assisted at the clinic.

“This will also force other people who do not want their status to be disclosed to opt not to visit clinics,” Haufiku said.

The minister added they were exploring options to extend the healthcare services offered at these donated facilities.

“We are busy looking for funds either through donation so that we can start taking primary healthcare to these clinics through outreach programmes. We would like people from those communities to access healthcare through these centres.

“Everybody in those communities needs to benefit, even pregnant women must be able to get healthcare at these centres. We have similar centres at Okankolo and Gobabis where we already implemented this system and it is working out very well,” he said.

In 2016 the US embassy donated 14 pre-fabricated dispensary buildings to be used as outreach clinics for ARV and TB treatment to villages such as Onamihonga, Oshalumbu, Onghalulu, Oupili, Oshitishiwa, Olukula, Oshifitu and Omutwe-womunhu.


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