The executive director of the Namibia Planned Parenthood Association (NAPPA), Bravo Linosi, says the reduction in donor funding since Namibia’s classification as an upper-middle income country has had a negative impact on the organisation.
Linosi, who explained that NAPPA’s services are donor-funded, called on the government to come to their aid by investing in its reproductive health services.
NAPPA promotes sexual and reproductive health with a focus on youth, although adults are not excluded. With the help of donor funds NAPPA reaches out to the wider public with youth-friendly services.
“At the end of the day we will have a situation where teenage pregnancies are high, high STIs (sexually transmitted illnesses) and long queues at health centres because of the lack of funds,” said Linosi, who stressed that the organisation was only able to reach out to the public by means of donor funding.
Linosi further said nurses at NAPPA clinics are trained to offer youth-friendly services and explained that young people can access sexual reproductive services at NAPPA without fear of discrimination.
Stressing the youth-friendly approach of NAPPA clinics, which can be found at Keetmanshoop, Rundu and Walvis Bay among others, Linosi said: “Twenty percent representation on our board is allocated to young people.”
“At times young people are put off by long queues and the attitude of service providers,” Linosi added. Further, he explained that NAPPA clinics cater specifically for the needs of youth, which may not always be the case at other health centres.
Meanwhile, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Country Representative Dennia Gayle said 19 percent of women in Namibia has been recorded as childbearing.
“Adolescence marks the onset of sexual maturity and most young people start exploring their sexuality at this stage. However, sexual activity can be compounded by poverty, peer pressure or lack of education,” Gayle explained.
She added that the lack of resources might force girls to become involved in sexual intercourse in an effort to get access to resources and food.
“Because the sexual encounter can also happen by force or coercion and in a position of power imbalance, the adolescent girl is less likely to negotiate contraceptive use, including condom for dual protection. This makes girls vulnerable to pregnancy and the risk of HIV-infection if they do not have the information and means to prevention or protection,” said Gayle.
The fact that 66 percent of the country’s population is under 30 is a formidable asset for Namibia, “but if proper investments in health education and employment are not made, we run the risk of missing the window of opportunity to harness this demographic dividend.
“It is, therefore, imperative that we empower, educate and create opportunities for employment for our young people, both boys and girls, but particularly our adolescent girls who tend to carry a greater burden of the consequences of an early pregnancy,” she said.
John Bosco Katjiua, the head of programmes at NAPPA, added that boys often have the courage to go and get condoms. However, due to “social perceptions” and stigma girls are often more inhibited and thus disempowered. “Teenage pregnancy is high because the girl-child is not really empowered,” Katjiua said.
“At the end of the day we have young people who know about family planning, but they don’t access the services,” Linosi added.