Hepatitis E situation an embarrassment

09 January 2020 | Opinion

There is no sign that Namibia's hepatitis E outbreak, which erupted more than two years ago, will soon be contained.

Nineteen people were killed by the disease in 2019 and a 65% rise in new infections saw close to 7 000 reported cases by the end of 2019.

At the start of January 2019, a total of 40 deaths had been recorded, which increased to 59 by 15 December. This is a scandal of monumental proportions.

That our country cannot contain this outbreak for more than two years is, for lack of a better word, embarrassing.

We may not have all the facts related to this situation, but there is a strong sense that the root causes of this disease are not being addressed with the intensity required.

Globally, this disease is common in low- and middle-income countries with limited access to essential water, sanitation, hygiene and health services. In these areas, the disease occurs both as outbreaks and as sporadic cases.

It is no wonder the disease has been wreaking havoc in the poor suburbs of Windhoek and other areas in the country where poverty is the order of the day.

In areas like Havana and other impoverished suburbs of Windhoek, the issue of hygiene remains a pipe dream. At some stage in 2019, New Era published, twice, a photo of sewage overflowing in Hakahana. Weeks after the first photo was published, the problem was still not addressed. The poor are simply never a priority.

Children were often spotted playing in that water, or picking up soccer balls from there as they indulge is street football, which is the only recreational activity available in the destitute location.

A lot of people in those areas continue to defecate in the open because there are either no toilet facilities or the few that are available are crowded or broken.

Yet so much of the country's financial resources are being channelled towards meaningless activities such as entertainment allowances or the travelling pleasures of their custodians.

If this outbreak continues, we have an emerging humanitarian crisis. A crisis that could have been averted but the will to do so is simply not enough.

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