UN Envoy Impressed


By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK Unlike the last submission to the Global Fund that was rejected, Namibia’s sixth application might this year receive preferential treatment given the country’s potential in combating HIV/AIDS. The United Nations General Secretary’s Special Envoy for HIV/Aids in Africa, Stephen Lewis said this during his visit to Namibia last week. Lewis, who concluded a four-day visit last Thursday revealed that the country’s fifth proposal was not approved because of some “loopholes” in the submission. However, he was positive that this time Namibia will be considered for the funds desperately needed in the fight against HIV/AIDS and malaria. Last July, the country received N$288 million from the Global Fund. This was channelled towards 31 HIV/AIDS, Malaria, and Tuberculosis projects. The country then submitted its fifth application, which was hoped, if approved, would have a wider coverage for the 13 regions. During Lewis’ visit to State House last week, President Hifikepunye Pohamba admitted that Namibia is a small country that is struggling with resources that could be used in fighting HIV/Aids and other diseases. Lewis added that the Global Fund since its establishment in 2001 to provide financial resources to scale up national efforts to combat HIV/Aids, TB, and malaria, critically scrutinizes the received documents before they are taken to the next level for further analysis. As a special envoy for Africa, he advised that Namibia must never feel anxious, as the situation is not peculiar to the country. Countries such as Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, Senegal and Lesotho last year had their proposals rejected too. “I am sure Namibia will refine the proposal and if the Global Fund has money, it will give because then the country would have closed all the loopholes,” he enthused. Further, Lewis expressed disappointment at countries that promise to help the continent yet fail to live to promises. He added that despite being a moral obligation that countries deliver on promises made, G8 countries continue to betray Africa by failing to deliver. “I offered on behalf of Namibia at the UN because the country has potential. A country like Namibia needs resources and that needs support,” he stated. As a special envoy, Lewis told members of the press last Thursday, he has accomplished his mission in the four days that he spent in the country. “I covered a number of areas as an envoy is required to do,” he stated. Lewis had meetings with President Pohamba, Minister of Health and Social Services Richard Kamwi, Lironga Eparu, as well as visits to the Katutura hospital and other places dealing with HIV/AIDS related activities. Of the places visited, he says he was impressed by three particular places. The Child Hope Initiative (Okahandja Park) that works with Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVCs) is something that he describes as rare and only a person with unusual capacity can dedicate oneself to such a good cause. He emphasised that countries are overwhelmed by the number of orphans but have not really started feeling the deluge. The Childline Lifeline organisation is another project visited that impressed Lewis. He indicated that he has never found himself in a setup where matters of sexuality are discussed so openly. “The counsellors were just impressive,” he applauded. The work done by the Namibia Red Cross Society (NRCS), according to the envoy is unusual and singular to Namibia. “Having about 350 counsellors countrywide is something that I have never seen anywhere, so engaged in front with the government, it is amazing. Actually, every visit had its own insights,” Lewis stated. Further, Namibia has a high level of political commitment to the fight against HIV/AIDS and other diseases and this is testimony that the policies that are in place are supportive, he added. This was made clear to him following a meeting with the Minister of Gender Equality and Child Welfare Marlene Mungunda last week. Lewis acknowledged that there are indeed excellent policies in place but there is a great need for a fine design to put these policies on the ground. “The key in Namibia is clearly implementation of policies articulated and making them real,” he said. The question of capacity still haunts the country and something has to be done as this would always compromise delivery of services. Reiterating what composed other important points during a meeting with Pohamba, Lewis noted that tremendous mobilisation on women protection, and education was of paramount importance. Another striking experience was the Namibian Govern-ment’s initiative to extend its treatment programmes to refugees in the country and this, according to the UN special envoy, shows significant progress made by the country in this area despite limited resources. “Overall, I feel hopeful about what is happening in Namibia. I spoke to the Minister of Health and there is a terrific sense of determination which is crucial to success,” he concluded.