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Namibia Head of State Congratulates WHO on Its 75th Anniversary

In a special note on 7 April 2023, His Excellency, Dr Hage Geingob, President of the Republic of Namibia hailed global and national public health achievements of over the past 75 years, attributing this to effective partnership between governments and the World Health Organization. He referred to the groundbreaking work on COVID-19 vaccine development which aided governments in the COVID-19 pandemic control and drastically reduced the number of deaths and new infections globally.  He further praised the work done through the   Global Polio Eradication Initiative since 1988 under the leadership of WHO which saw a reduction in polio cases by 99% because of the polio vaccine.  The President said that Namibia maintained its polio free status since October 2008 through continued routine and supplementary immunization campaigns. He further noted the achievements in the eradication of smallpox in 1980, following an ambitious 12-year immunization programme led by the WHO. His Excellency further referred to the national efforts during the Hepatitis E outbreak which resulted in end of the outbreak in March 2022.  ‘This success is due to continued, sustained multi-sectoral collaboration with the WHO and other partners who supported the government efforts related to case management, surveillance, laboratory services, infection prevention and control, risk communication and community engagement, water, sanitation and hygiene’, he said. 

Prior to His Excellency’s statement, the Ministry of Health and Social Services with the World Health Organization (WHO) jointly launched the WHO 75th Anniversary during the World Health Day Commemoration in Opuwo, Kunene Region on 6 April 2023.   The event was preceded by a celebratory march and marked by traditional performances and appreciation of the health interventions to ensure that the hardest to reach have access to essential health services.  

Dr Charles Sagoe-Moses, WHO Representative said in his remarks that the commemoration of World Health Day this year allows WHO and member states to take stock of key global and national public health achievements of the past 7 and a half decades. He noted milestone achievements in global and national public health.  One of such achievement is the increase in life expectancy at birth, globally, from 66.8 in 2000 to 73.3 in 2019. In 1974, the expanded programme on immunization was established to bring lifesaving vaccines to children of world. 

He noted the achievement in the control of HIV pandemic and stated that ‘Since the first HIV case in 1986, Namibia now has a generalized HIV epidemic with 8.54% of Namibians living with HIV.  Thanks to the early and continuous partnership of WHO and other UN Agencies, United States Government and other partners, the country is one of the first high burden countries to approach epidemic control estimated to be at 92-99-94 as defined by the UNAIDS 95-95-95 treatment cascade.  New HIV infections have halved since 2004, and life expectancy increased by 12 years, from 51 years in 2001 to 63 years in 2020’.  

Dr Kalumbi Shangula, Minister of Health and Social Services, in his keynote address said that ‘The theme for the World Health Day 2023, “Health for All”, speaks directly to the aspects of accessibility and availability of health care services for all those who need them. The thrust of this theme is to encourage governments and other stakeholders to ensure that health for all means that all persons and all communities enjoy good health to lead a fulfilling life in a peaceful, prosperous, and sustainable manner. In my view Health for All also means a healthy natural environment. It means access to basic socio-economic services and amenities, such as clean drinking water, healthy and safe food, personal safety, and clean communities. It means that our children, young people and adults live wholesome and healthy lives.’

Dr Shangula said that ‘Health for All’   refers to health as a basic human right and ensuring that everyone, everywhere have access to health services when they need it.  The Namibian Cabinet approved the Universal Health Coverage Policy Framework last year and t which will guide the work of the Ministry to engage members of the public regarding the actualization of Universal Health Coverage in the country.   Dr Shangula said that the government will adopt the ‘whole-of-government” and the “whole-of-society” approaches to its work. 

He further stated that Namibia is ranked between 65% and 70% on the WHO Universal Health Coverage Index. This, the Minister said, makes Namibia one of the top performing countries in Africa with respect to progress towards Universal Health Coverage.  He acknowledged that more needs to be done in order to achieve WHO target of achieving Universal Health Coverage of over 80% by 2030.   

He noted that ‘Health for All’ requires a skilled workforce and robust investment in health systems. ‘Strong health systems are needed to deliver both Universal Health Coverage and emergency preparedness and response’, he stated.  The Honorable minister referred to the Special Session of the World Health Assembly held on 1 December 2021 and established the Intergovernmental Negotiating Body (INB) to strengthen pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response.  Namibia has been actively participating in these landmark discussions and have contributed to the subsequent review of the International Health Regulations (2005).  

Dr Shangula concluded by congratulating WHO on its 75th anniversary and reiterated the partnership between the Government of Namibia and WHO.  

Source : WHOAfrica