Windhoek’s Healthy Cities Project

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By Wonder Guchu WINDHOEK The implementation of the City of Windhoek and the World Health Organization’s initiative, the Healthy Cities Project, is said to be moving at a very slow pace. The initiative, adopted by about 1ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ 000 other cities worldwide, is a long-term international development project that places health before anything else and promotes comprehensive local strategies for health and sustainable development. It has been touted as the most effective, appropriate and sustainable tool to improve health in cities and urban centres, especially in low-income and under-privileged communities. The City of Windhoek’s participation in the initiative was a result of WHO’s invitation in 2000 after the Ministry of Health and Social Services and the Ministry of Environment and Tourism had attended the Healthy Cities Workshop held in Kenya in 1999. In one of the papers presented during the three-day workshop which was held in the city this week, it was noted that, despite some successful implementation of projects conceived under the initiative, the City of Windhoek is yet to reach the recommended WHO phases. “Seven years after the project was introduced to the City of Windhoek and the Ministry of Health and Social Services, it (the Project) seems to be far from going through the WHO recommended phases of Getting Started, Getting Organized and Taking Action, which makes the following phase of Taking Action impossible. “The main problem is that the institutions tasked to implement the project do not seem to clearly understand the beginning and the end of their role,” the paper said. But a review of the progress made showed that, despite the setbacks, the City of Windhoek managed to introduce skip container systems in the north-western suburbs and built stalls to accommodate informal traders. Sanitary and recreational facilities at Goreangab Dam were built and committees – the steering committee and the task force on data collection – were put in place. It was also noted that the success the city experienced was as a result of political commitment, the presence of a full-time Healthy Cities coordinator as well as the appointment on a full-time basis of an environmental health officer for the City of Windhoek. HIV and Aids programmes were introduced and are still running. However, the city could not fully complete projects such as clearing blocked sewerage systems and medical waste management. Despite the hard work, it was noted that some projects could not be completed because of limited understanding and support from some members of the top municipality management as well as lack of awareness and community participation. The workshop was attended by the Deputy Minister of Health and Social Services, Petrina Haingura, who was the guest of honour.