The World Health Organisation (WHO) Country Representative Dr Charles Sagoe-Moses says the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, cancer and hypertension requires special attention.
Almost 50 percent of Namibians are hypertensive which is a major risk to stroke and other cardiovascular diseases, emphasised Sagoe-Moses.
“We witnessed increases in different types of cancers,” he said. The five most frequent cancers in Namibia are breast cancer at 5.9 percent, Kaposi Sarcoma 11.8 percent, cervical cancer at 9.8 percent, prostate cancer at 9.7 percent, and lip/oral cavity cancer at 5.8 percent.
Most of these share common risk factors including harmful use of alcohol, tobacco use, physical inactivity and unhealthy diets. “Data related to these risk factors is a cause for concern and there is an urgency to address non-communicable diseases at the highest level of government,” Sagoe-Moses said. He also stated that the recently launched non-communicable diseases strategy would be a catalyst for intervention in this area. “We are hoping to see greater cooperation between the Office of the Prime Minister and the Ministry of Health and Social Services and coordinating the implementation of the strategy with multiple stakeholders,” explained Sagoe-Moses. He was speaking on the top ten public health threats for 2019 as identified by the WHO.
Sagoe-Moses further noted HIV remains a key health priority and with other partners WHO will continue to provide support in the areas of prevention and treatment.
“Our work focused on prevention of mother-to-children transmission, introduction of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) as key public health intervention and special focus on prevention of HIV transmission in adolescents and young women,” he added.
The ongoing hepatitis E virus outbreak which is now a national outbreak calls attention to social and environmental determinants of health, he further remarked.
“The need for stronger inter-sectoral action and partnership is more urgent if we are to effectively reduce the active transmission of this virus. WHO has been working with the Ministry of Health and Social Services since the outbreak and provided support in all areas of the outbreak response. We will continue to do so until we see a complete end to the outbreak,” said Sagoe-Moses.
Additionally, vaccine hesitancy is among the top ten threats to global health identified by the WHO, and in Namibia the WHO wants to increase support to ensure that all children are fully immunised.
This is according to Sagoe-Moses who stated that generally vaccination coverage in Namibia is high.
Sagoe-Moses said vaccine is essential for the prevention of diseases. “If we neglect to vaccinate our children we may see a return in diseases which have been eradicated,” said the WHO country representative. He said the ongoing measles outbreaks in Europe and the United States of America is partly attributed to the many years of vaccine resistance.
“Namibia has done a lot to reduce deaths due to vaccine preventable diseases in children. We would like to strengthen this achievement and will continue to work with the Ministry of Health and Social Services in this area,” said Sagoe-Moses.