HIV survey nurses want more money

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Alvine Kapitako

Windhoek-Nurses and enumerators for the population-based HIV survey that aims to generate detailed data on the HIV epidemic in Namibia are unhappy about their working conditions and compensation.

The Namibia Population-based HIV Impact Assessment (NAMPHIA) survey, which will measure the impact of HIV programmes in the country was launched last month.

The survey will cover at least 120 000 randomly selected households countrywide. The survey was scheduled to commence this month and continue for six months but it has not yet kicked off officially.

The nurses and enumerators said their working conditions and allowances fall short of the contracts they had signed in some cases, and in other instances, they felt the daily allowance was too small. In addition, they were worried about their safety when going in the field.

A registered nurse yesterday told New Era that the N$260 daily allowance that they receive is insufficient, as they have to pay for accommodation from that allowance.

The allowance is in addition to other benefits such as a monthly fixed salary, pension fund, bonus and fixed overtime, medical aid for both enrolled and registered nurses.

The nurse said he resigned from his job where he earned N$14 000 as a basic salary to work on the NAMPHIA where he will receive a basic salary of N$29 000 on top of the allowances.

“I resigned from my job because I wanted greener pastures and when I look at that salary it makes a big difference to my pocket, because what I will get in seven months is what I would have received in two years at my former job,” the man said.

However, he and others who will go in the field feel the N$260 allowance is not sufficient for the day, because they “need to survive”.

“We will be forced to take money from our pockets because the N$260 allowance is not enough. Accommodation should not be our responsibility but that of our employer,” the man added.

Further, he said that they had not received assurances about their safety during their time in the field.

“It’s like we are going to prison; people will know that we are not familiar with the area in which we are, and that will make us vulnerable to attacks yet we have been told to safeguard the equipment that we will be using in the field,” the man said.

“We have people traveling from other regions to do interviews and tests but they have to arrange their own accommodation and are still expected to survive on the N$260 daily allowance for six months,” another man said, who also said he was the spokesperson of the disgruntled group.

Furthermore, enumerators would work in zones, and every zone represented three regions for the enumerators.

“In the rural areas they have to look for their own accommodation to stay as close as possible to the houses where they are conducting interviews and tests,” the group spokesperson said.

In addition, they complained that of the 175 trained enumerators, 35 had to be selected as team leaders. However, team leaders were not selected from the group as stipulated.

“When they advertised for the positions of coordinator, one requirement was that they should have a health background. But we have coordinators who are not from a health related background,” the registered nurse said.

The public relations officer in the Ministry of Health and Social Services had not responded to questions sent by the time of going to print.

Meanwhile, the health minister Dr Bernard Haufiku said at the launch of the survey that it should not be seen as an employment creation scheme to “make money”.

“Its primary aim is to help us understand the HIV epidemic in Namibia for us to manage it better and contain the epidemic,” Haufiku said at the launch of NAMPHIA last month. The result of the survey will become available next year.

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