Hepatitis ravages Namibia's poorest

14 August 2019 | Health

Urgent and fresh interventions are needed to help curb Namibia's drawn-out hepatitis E outbreak, which is approaching its two-year milepost next month and shows no signs of abating.

The outbreak has killed 53 Namibians and infected almost 6 000 of Namibia's poorest since September 2017.

“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,” Dr Bernard Haufiku, who heads the national health emergency management committee, told Namibian Sun.

Haufiku emphasised that the outbreak is not an issue confined to the health sector alone but cuts across many sectors, including environment, housing, education, communication and agriculture.

He said although relevant bodies have implemented several strategies to curb the outbreak, there is a strong push to consider alternative, additional strategies, “as our current intervention seem not to take us anywhere”.

“We are basically 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,” he said. He warned that a vaccine is “not something one can just pull from the shelf or lab and administer to people”, and that there are a myriad of critical issues to consider, with strict emphasis on safety and efficacy.

“I am personally of the view that we must now consider other available measures and options, and perhaps to do so rather fast, if we really want to bring hepatitis E under control,” he said.

Haufiku said in 2017 an offer for a vaccine developed in China was made but it was declined, partly because of strict international guidelines. He said the Namibian authorities were fairly optimistic that the outbreak could be brought under control.

“The current situation has proven us wrong, as it is now clear that we have not managed to bring the outbreak under control,” he admitted.





He repeated that in his personal view, he would not “exclude considerations for the introduction of an anti-hepatitis E vaccine,” albeit under strictly controlled conditions.







Poorest hardest hit



The most recent situation report indicates that the majority of the 5 940 Namibians infected by hepatitis E to date, namely 77%, or 4 563, are unemployed and live in informal settlements.



Moreover, 4 550 of those infected don't have indoor plumbing but depend on communal taps.



Haufiku emphasised that three underlying issues are driving the outbreak: lack of access to clean water, lack of sanitation and poor personal hygiene.



He said these issues must be addressed not only by the health teams battling the outbreak, but everyone in Namibia, including the private sector, media and others.



He stressed that the response teams' two main objectives are to prevent loss of life and to ensure the disease does not become endemic.



“More people are getting infected and more are losing their lives to the disease, especially pregnant mothers,” Haufiku warned.



“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.”



The latest situation update shows that five people died of hepatitis E in the two weeks between 14 and 29 July, bringing the death toll to 53.



A year ago, on 29 July 2018, a total of 2 435 suspected cases and 20 deaths had been reported.



Haufiku explained that the response teams are still pushing the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) campaign, along with the Community Led Total Sanitation approach, in an effort to slow down the outbreak.



Among the alternative strategies is a small project in the DRC informal settlement at Swakopmund, where a German company is distributing antiseptic products in a controlled environment, as this is the first time the products are being used in Africa.



The team has also been talking with representatives of the organisation Doctors Without Borders who are currently in Namibia to offer their help.

Similar News

 

World-class medical equipment with GC Medical

1 week ago - 10 January 2020 | Health

Ester Kamati Despite what it describes as a “rough start” in July 2017, GC Medical has been working towards their aim of delivering world-class service...

Stubborn Hepatitis E still soaring

2 weeks ago - 07 January 2020 | Health

Namibia's hepatitis E outbreak shows no signs of abating since it first erupted more than two years ago. Nineteen people were killed by the disease...

Christmas babies galore

3 weeks ago - 30 December 2019 | Health

Hospitals in Windhoek recorded 28 new births on Christmas Day, while Erongo welcomed 16 of these births and Otjiwarongo six.The Katutura State Hospital topped the...

Winning the fight against measles

1 month - 09 December 2019 | Health

Over the past decade there has been a drastic decline in measles cases in Namibia, dropping from 1 815 to only 16 confirmed cases this...

Economic misery fuels suicides

1 month - 06 December 2019 | Health

Close to 400 people died by suicide between January and September 2019 and experts warn that Namibia's economic crisis, lack of jobs and the crippling...

Malaria cases on the rise

1 month - 06 December 2019 | Health

Namibia accounts for 29.2% of suspected malaria cases in East and Southern and Africa (ESA). This percentage is the second largest in the sub-region, behind...

Women: The face of HIV

1 month - 06 December 2019 | Health

More than 200 000 Namibians aged 15 years and older are living with HIV and more than half of them are women.According to the health...

The calm in the storm

1 month - 29 November 2019 | Health

MARISELLE STOFBERG Everyone has a dream of making a difference in life, but sometimes lacks the perseverance and determination needed to do that. Renay Coetzee,...

Maternity ward in limbo

1 month - 25 November 2019 | Health

Poor floor work has led to the halting of the N$59 million antenatal and postnatal maternity ward project at the Onandjokwe state hospital.This was after...

More than meets the eye

2 months ago - 22 November 2019 | Health

Evany van Wyk “Being able to do what I do – and doing it well – is a blessing!” says Lizelle van Schalkwyk, the...

Latest News

N$450m party funding unaudited

19 hours ago | Politics

OGONE TLHAGE Auditor-General Junias Kandjeke says there is no law authorising him to...

Teachers warned against accepting bribes

19 hours ago | Education

Kavango East education director Fanuel Kapapero has issued a stern warning to teachers who are accepting bribes from parents in exchange for placing children at...

Swapo must outlive its members

19 hours ago | Opinion

Swapo is in the midst of probably its toughest spell of post-independence existence. The mushrooming of the independent candidates phenomenon, almost all of whom are...

Hardap Dam level drops to...

19 hours ago | Disasters

The Hardap Dam's level has dropped even further since last week. Even though the dam received its first inflow since 2018 last week after some...

Tough road ahead

19 hours ago | Agriculture

The disastrous drought in Namibia over the past seven years has forced livestock producers to significantly reduce their herds. They are now faced with cash...

Katima abattoir to start with...

19 hours ago | Agriculture

ELLANIE SMIT The Katima Mulilo export abattoir is expected to commence with test slaughtering by the end of February, if repairs...

Sustainable use of biomass strengthened

19 hours ago | Environment

Germany has donated more than N$2 million in vehicles and equipment to the agriculture ministry and the University of Namibia (Unam) in an effort to...

Man in court for registering...

19 hours ago | Justice

A 58-year-old man arrested at Aranos last Friday for allegedly providing false information relating to an accident made his first appearance in the Aranos Magistrate's...

A beacon of hope

19 hours ago | Education

The Tsintsabis Combined School's feeding programme has received resounding support from stakeholders since its implementation in 2004, acting principal Christalina Narubes said.During an interview at...

Load More