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Namibian Leaders Determined to Address Country’s Health Disparities

Today Namibia has plenty of reasons to celebrate.

The country is well on its way to meeting the Millennium Development Goals for education, the environment, and gender by 2015. And it’s now considered to be a middle-income country and a leader in conservation management and sustainable tourism.

But a hard road lies ahead.

Namibia’s HIV prevalence remains high at 14.3% among adults (though it has greatly improved from its peak of 22% in 2002). And Namibia’s social and economic disparities are among the highest in the world.

The result is a wide gulf between those who have access to high-quality health care and those who do not.

In light of these challenges and despite economic growth and progress in some sectors, Namibia is unlikely to meet its development goals for reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, and lowering rates of HIV.

IntraHealth Namibia will address one of the country's greatest health challenges: a shortage of health workers.

We are dedicated to working with Namibia to help ensure that all of its people have access to high-quality health care. That’s why we’re excited to be launching IntraHealth Namibia, an independent, country-based affiliate that will address one of the country’s greatest health challenges: a shortage of trained, equitably distributed, well-equipped health workers.

IntraHealth Namibia’s board of directors is made up of some truly inspiring Namibian leaders.During our first meeting in Windhoek last month, I was struck by the great dedication, expertise, and enthusiasm these new board members bring to the task. Their eagerness to highlight human resources for health (HRH) as a way to address Namibia’s health disparities was infectious.

“I see IntraHealth making a significant contribution to the resources for health workers in Namibia—and it becoming the partner of choice in this field,” says IntraHealth Namibia board member Hans Bruno Gerdes, a legal practitioner and managing partner at Engling Stritter and Partners in Namibia.

IntraHealth Namibia’s volunteer board of directors includes:

  • Filemon Amaambo, surgeon at LMS and chair of the University of Namibia Governing Council
  • Griffort Beukes, senior manager of human resources at Agra Namibia
  • Hans-Bruno Gerdes, legal practitioner at Engling Stritter and Partners
  • Cornelius Weyulu, registrar of the Health Professions Council of Namibia
  • Pamela McQuide, chief of party in Namibia at IntraHealth International
  • Pape Gaye, president and CEO of IntraHealth International
  • Trilaine Massey, director of budgeting and financial analysis at IntraHealth International

We at IntraHealth International are extremely lucky to work with board members and HRH professionals of this caliber. Their focus on service and exemplary oversight of the new organization is remarkable.

During the launch, the board members shared with me that they joined us because it gives them an opportunity to give back to their country in a truly meaningful way. We are deeply grateful for their generosity.

Through IntraHealth Namibia, we have an opportunity to better understand and support a country in transition as it addresses key health workforce issues.

It’s also an opportunity for Namibia to make faster progress toward its goals—and for 2.3 million Namibians to enjoy greater health and well-being.An expatriate health workforce Namibia’s health sector has very few homegrown health workers.

The country is still highly dependent on doctors, nurses, and other frontline workers who move to Namibia from neighboring countries. (This may soon change—the first cohort of graduates from the University of Namibia’s new School of Medicine will soon enter the workforce.)

Another challenge: health workers are in short supply. An overall shortage—as well as uneven distribution of health workers throughout the country—leaves many Namibians without access to the high-quality health care they need.

IntraHealth Namibia is in a unique position to work with the government to address these and other staffing issues.Already, under the leadership of Pamela McQuide in Namibia, IntraHealth has been implementing WISN (or Workforce Indicators of Staffing Need), a World Health Organization tool that helps leaders to better plan and budget for their health sectors. WISN has led the Ministry of Health and Social Services to focus anew on health workforce data in its policy- and decision-making.

Our vision is that this new affiliate will work closely with Namibia’s government, the faith-based community, and other civil society organizations to bring these partners together and help the country address its health workforce challenges in a meaningful way.

And given the great commitment and expertise of IntraHealth Namibia’s new board members, I believe that this vision will become a reality.

IntraHealth’s current work in Namibia—including our work with WISN through the IntraHealth-led CapacityPlus project—is supported by the US Agency for International Development. Photo by Trevor Snapp.Read more: