Windhoek-Some Namibians seeking basic medical care walk up to 40 km to reach the nearest public health facility, a Namibia Statistics Agency (NSA) report revealed.
The report, released in Windhoek last week, confirms that members of about 13.3 percent of households in the country walk a distance between 11 to 40 kilometres to the nearest health facility, while 4.6 percent of households are located more than 40 kilometres from the nearest health services.
Such households are in rural areas, the report said. There are people with no access to medical facilities at all, it further states.
While access to healthcare services is critical to good health, and one of the prerequisites to attain the targets set by the United Nations through the Sustainable Development Goals, the NSA’s Namibia Household Income and Expenditure Survey (NHIES) 2015/2016 report paints worrying findings insofar as access is concerned.
Recently there were reports in the local media about villagers in a remote part of Kunene Region usually taking two weeks to walk an unbelievable distance of 250 kilometres through rugged, hilly terrain to access a clinic in Opuwo.
Public transport to and from some remote areas are unbelievably scarce and people have to walk such long distances even when they are pregnant of have life-threatening illnesses.
The NHIES report further indicated that 33.1 percent of households in Namibia travel less than one kilometre to the nearest hospital or clinic while 32 percent travel between two and five kilometres.
Apart from the long distances and the transport challenges, the report also pointed out inadequate drugs or equipment, costs and health personnel as the major barriers still facing the rural health system.
According to the Ministry of Health and Social Services, efforts have been made to ensure that health services are accessible and efficient so that people who need treatment have access to them and that health services are utilised as expected.
Currently there are altogether 248 clinics, 37 health centres and 47 hospitals, most being in the north of Namibia and the larger towns where most of Namibia’s citizenry live.
Some clinics and health centres also have outreach points (such as a room built by a school) where health workers periodically provide services.
The area of coverage within 10 km of a health facility has more than tripled as a result of the number of health facilities rising from 98 in 1981 to 317 by 2001.
Although 80 percent of the population now live within 10 km of a clinic, this still leaves 20 percent or over 300,000 people in remote areas, particularly Omaheke and Kunene, without ready-to-access to health services.