The first United Nations ‘Solidarity’ flight started delivering vital medical supplies from last week to all countries in Africa where these are needed the most. The flight was facilitated by the World Food Programme and included WHO supported supplies of face shields, gloves, goggles, gowns, masks, medical aprons and thermometers. Supplies for the Namibian government arrived in the country on 17 April 2020.
Health care workers are at the front line of the COVID-19 outbreak response and as such are exposed to hazards that put them at risk of infection. The World Health Organization Country Office in Namibia handed over the essential medical supplies to the Ministry of Health and Social Services (MoHSS) to support the Namibian Governments’ ongoing efforts to protect health workers. The donation includes personal protective equipment (PPE’s) that can supply well over 1000 health workers with facial shields, masks, gloves, gowns, laboratory swabs and goggles.
The handover took place after a live panel discussion focusing on the “Protection of the Health force” on 20 April 2020. The discussion was hosted at the COVID-19 Communication Centre and broadcast live by all media houses and the national television broadcaster.
WHO Representative in Namibia Dr. Charles Sagoe
Moses joined the Honourable Minister Dr. Kalumbi Shangula, Minister of Health and Social Services to unpack the plight healthcare workers face in the COVID 9 pandemic.
Delivering a global outlook of the infection rate and its effects on health workforce, Dr. Charles Sagoe-Moses said that as of 18 April 2020, over 2 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and close to 150,000 COVID -19 related deaths were reported. Dr Sagoe-Moses expressed concern around the infection of frontline health care providers, noting the prevalence of up to 10 percent of health care workers infected by the new coronavirus in some countries. “When health workers are at risk, we’re all at risk,” Dr Sagoe-Moses said and drew evidence from countries such as China, Italy, Singapore, Spain and the United States regarding the impact health worker infections have had, yet also noted lessons learnt from these examples in informing mitigation and prevention.
From the evidence gathered around health care worker infections, findings have demonstrated that health workers could be infected in health facilities, in their communities and homes. Furthermore at health care facilities, the late recognition of COVID-19, lack of training and inexperience in dealing with respiratory related pathogens were some of the common problems attributed to infections. Large numbers of patients, long shifts and inadequate rest periods are also common problems faced by health care workers. Despite the challenges, “evidence shows that when health workers wear personal protective equipment, the correct way, infections can be prevented,” Dr. Sagoe-Moses said. He emphasized the importance of health care workers being able to access masks, gloves, gowns, and other PPE they require to do their jobs safely and effectively.
Honourable Dr.Kalumbi Shangula, underscored the need to take care of healthcare personnel to ensure that they are in good physical and psychological state to enable them to carry out their jobs well. In Namibia, an Employee Welfare Assistance programme through the Ministry of Health exists to address and try to resolve personal problems experienced by health care workers.
Dr. Shangula, called upon the Health Care Force to use protective equipment, “Health Care Force needs to practice what they preach and use protective equipment at all times,” he said. He went on to say that ongoing engagements with the Ministry of Trade is in place to facilitate local manufacturers for the production of Personal Protective Equipment in Namibia.
The importance of PPE can not be stated enough, yet the short supply globally has been a cause for concern. Against this background, WHO and the UN are committed to support Government in gaining access to these critical supplies. Through a new United Nations Supply Chain Task Force, coordinated by WHO and the World Food Programme the coordination, procurement and distribution of personal protective equipment, lab diagnostics and oxygen are provided to countries that need it most. The supply chain is estimated to cover more than 30% of the world’s needs in the acute phase of the pandemic.
In Namibia, WHO has been instrumental in supporting the COVID-19 pandemic response. Under the umbrella of the International Health Regulations and in partnership with sister agencies, support has been ongoing toward the MoHSS during preparation and now response and mitigation. Support is provided through coordination, risk communication and community engagement, surveillance, points of entry, national laboratories, infection prevention and control, case management and logistics. Furthermore, WHO is providing capacity development programmes through the training of surveillance officers, regional rapid response health teams and case management.
Further support is geared toward health facilities’ readiness to handle any suspected COVID-19 case and how to apply standard protocol for infection control and correct referrals. WHO has also supported the country to be able to test COVID-19 locally and this remains a priority. The agency will continue to provide diagnostic reagents as well as swabs to NIP to the extent possible.
WHO has been working closely with other agencies to support the risk communication and community engagement pillar in developing communication strategies, messages and products for the general public and targeted communities. This support will be scaled up to include sub-national levels and ensure the whole country, especially the vulnerable with limited access to technology and electricity, is reached with the right information.
Dr. Charles Sagoe-Moses underscored that nurses are critical to deliver on the promise of “leaving no one behind” and the global effort to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). They make a central contribution to national and global targets related to a range of health priorities, including universal health coverage, mental health and noncommunicable diseases, emergency preparedness and response, patient safety, and the delivery of integrated, people-centered care.
It is evident that no global health agenda can be realized without concerted and sustained efforts to maximize the contributions of the nursing workforce and their roles within interprofessional health teams. “We need to invest in our frontline health workers and more especially now when they are risking their lives to keep us safe,” Dr. Sagoe-Moses concluded.Distributed by APO Group on behalf of WHO Regional Office for Africa.
WHO Representative to Namibia, Dr Charles Sagoe-Moses handing over the COVID-19 medical supplies to the Minister of Health and Social Services, Dr Kalumbi Shangula