Accolades to Ministry of Health and Social Services

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The first round of the mass polio campaign was executed superbly, both organisationally and in terms of sensitising the entire nation on how the paralytic disease is spread. Planning appears to have been to the minute detail and there was a quick mobilisation of financial and human resources and indeed of logistics in terms of transport and the like. When Health and Social Services Minister Dr Richard Kamwi notified President Hifikepunye Pohamba and Cabinet the response was immediate and firm without any dilly-dallying, resulting in a massive vaccination campaign perfectly executed. Thorough planning and quick mobilisation of resources by both government and its partners were the hallmarks of the success of this exercise whose financial implication is N$40 million as it involves a fleet consisting of several hundreds of vehicles. Members of the public did not impassively fold their arms, as they should equally be commended for their patriotism and loyalty by availing 678 vehicles for the exercise. It is clear from preliminary results that more people than initially expected were covered by the polio vaccination campaign, taking into consideration that this was done in two days in a country so vast, with long distances between settlements. Beginning this week, the Ministry of Health and Social Services made it known that the vaccination campaign had been excellent with above 80 percent coverage countrywide. The other good news is that the ministry has left the door open for those who were not so lucky to make it to vaccination points to approach local health centres for the polio drops. This we are told is on-going particularly in remote areas where communication and other problems may have hindered people from reaching vaccination points on time. The success of this campaign would not have been possible without good and strong leadership, superb organisational skills and commitment by those involved, including the general public who took time off to flock to the vaccination points on the first and second days. Particularly impressive was the role of two men – Drs Richard Kamwi and Kalumbi Shangula. These two men became the visible face of the polio campaign. The Health Minister even made personal sacrifices as he lost over 2 kg over that period, we are told. In a country where some people who occupy cushy positions in public life have no time for ordinary people including the media, it was heartening to see Kamwi and Shangula transcend this boundary of self-made importance by being available when needed. They made themselves available at all times when the media requested for interviews. For instance, Dr Kamwi even made a detour of his trip from Caprivi to Otjozondjupa to hold an impromptu interview at a filling station at Rundu with our reporter who was in the area. Normally, it is a rare occurrence for a government minister to agree to an interview while on the road but Kamwi who agreed to an interview after being contacted on his mobile phone proved one of the few exceptions. The Ministry of Health and Social Services organised information sessions timeously to communicate the impending danger to the general public. Kamwi and Shangula were a pleasant pair to reporters who contacted them from day to day seeking information. They avoided being sucked into the circle of egoism and self-delusion and truly presented themselves as servants of the people including the seemingly insatiable media that incessantly kept knocking at their doors for more information. Indeed, this should be a lesson worth emulating by others. Kamwi must have understood the enormity of the problem and the importance of directly communicating with the people of Namibia about what was otherwise a life and death matter when he agreed to be interviewed while on the road. He did not waste time and cared less about where the interview could take place, least of all his spacious office in Windhoek. It takes good leadership to behave this way. All in all, this ministry has had an open door policy with the media. On many occasions, its officials found time to engage the media and play open cards with it, whether it be on controversial issues such as alleged overtime fraud at the Central hospital or straightforward issues such as the new cardiac unit or recruitment of nurses from Kenya, just to mention a few. This is how it should be and we hope other officials will learn something from their colleagues at the Ministry of Health and Social Services. Office bearers should be servants of the people and nothing more or nothing less, and they should make themselves as accessible as possible in this information-driven age. We would once again extend our gratitude to hundreds of other people who made this campaign a success and equally we are gratified with the assistance rendered by other partners such as UNICEF and WHO that assisted with a committed team of short-term consultants from Ghana, Malawi, Tanzania, USA, Zimbabwe and Zambia.