North on Health Alert

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By Petronella Sibeene

OTJIWARONGO

Minister of Health and Social Services, Dr Richard Kamwi, has instructed regional health directors in flood-hit areas to urgently put in place contingency measures to counter a likely outbreak of waterborne diseases.

Kamwi yesterday said contingency measures would enable the ministry to respond promptly in case of disease outbreak.

The Caprivi, Kavango, Ohangwena, Oshana, Omusati and Oshikoto regions have received heavy rains. This suggests increased mosquito vector activities and a possible rise in malaria vulnerability.

The minister proposed that environmental health officers should go into the field to educate communities in these regions on waterborne diseases and sanitation.

“I was in Oshakati last weekend and it is terrible there,” the minister said.

In an interview with New Era on the sidelines of the Ministerial Management Committee meeting underway in Otjiwarongo yesterday, the Health Regional Director for Caprivi, Michael Mulapani Likando, said the region has received a lot of rain that has affected residents in peri-urban areas. He said some people have been relocated to drier areas where they are housed in tents.

The ministry has started distributing treated mosquito nets to vulnerable groups such as children under the age of five as well as the elderly.

“We have also stepped up education campaigns especially on the possibility of waterborne disease outbreak. We encourage people to immediately go to hospital or any health centre when they get symptoms of malaria,” he said.

In addition, environmental health officers are visiting affected areas to monitor the situation.

On a weekly basis, the regional office receives reports on the health situation in the area while on a monthly basis, meetings are held with health staff in the area for updates and possible action.

“During this time of the year, we usually take nurses through policies on managing situations related to waterborne diseases,” Likando told New Era.

The Caprivi health director said his office has stepped up malaria monitoring while an indoor residual spray exercise has just been completed.

So far, the number of malaria cases is said to be manageable. However, Likando expressed concern that malaria cases might rise once the rains stop as mosquitoes are likely to breed in stagnant water.

No diarrhoea cases have been reported so far, he added.

He told New Era that the ministry would soon stock up drugs in the flood-prone eastern parts of the region.

“We intend to beef up pharmaceutical staff in the areas of Schuckmannsburg and Impalila,” said Likando.

Omusati Health Regional Director, Hildah Haipinge, also said that her region is on high alert for any epidemic.

She said the ministry has set up committees to monitor the sanitation situation in the flooded areas. Possible diseases, she said, are cholera and malaria.

So far, no cholera cases have been reported but since November last year to date, close to 100 malaria cases and four deaths have been recorded.

Like in the Caprivi, Kaino Pohamba, Regional Director of Ohangwena Region, said the Ohangwena health office has also embarked on an education campaign on waterborne diseases.

“We advise them to boil water for drinking and also use treated mosquito nets.”

Pohamba also confirmed to New Era that the region is prepared for any health eventualities.

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