I mentioned in my last blog, that I had the honour to present at the NAMAF conference, immediately after the Minster of Health and Social Services, Dr Richard Nchabi Kamwi.
Here are some of the main points that I took home from his presentation.
He echoed our own Minister of Health, Aaron Motsoaledi when he said that the entire world is re-shaping itself to focus attention to universal health coverage. He admitted that it was not a new concern, but said it had not received the adequate attention it deserves.
As in South Africa, evidence in Namibia shows that inequalities in access are also growing. “Children born to mothers who are less at ease financially are less likely to be immunized than those born to mothers in the highest wealth quintile. This was revealed by the Demographic Health Survey of 2006/07,” he said.
“Living in Kunene or in Zambezi region, or in the informal settlements in Windhoek does not give you equal access to quality care as residents of Windhoek Central Business District.”
These inequalities are not unique or specific to the health sector. You can observe the same trend in the education sector, in the housing sector or in access to sanitation and potable water.
“This is the reason why, two years ago we have started working with the Social Security Commission, in order to put in place a mechanism and a system to address the unequal access to quality health care in Namibia.”
Dr Nchabi Kamwi pointed out that the scenario of inequality can be seen as a legacy from the past, but he pointed out that inequalities in access to quality health care do exist in countries where there has been no apartheid, developing and developed countries alike.
Dr Nchabi Kamwi pointed out that according to WHO, Universal Health Coverage (UHC) is defined as the “situation where all people are able to use quality health services that they need without financial hardships in paying for them. The main objectives of UHC are to ensure equitable health services that meet quality standards and protect against financial risk for the entire population.”
What does this mean? “It means that Namibia should not be the last in the classroom; we need to move with the times and address our needs in this area, because they are immense. Addressing these needs will put us on a path of progress towards achieving better health outcomes for our people.
“As we are all aware, our country is confronted with a double disease burden, of communicable and noncommunicable diseases. Our people expect us to help them address their health challenges, both preventive and curative.
“We do not need to reinvent the wheel, but learn from others who have started before us,” he said.
Some of those lessons will be the subject of my next blog.