WINDHOEK – The ambassador of the United States of America to Namibia, Lisa Johnson, has vowed her country will continue to assist Namibia in its fight against the outbreak of hepatitis E.
Johnson made this promise on Friday after she visited Havana and Goreangab informal settlements in the Samora Machel Constituency, Windhoek to see the progress made and the challenges remaining in addressing the outbreak of hepatitis E.
More than 1,569 people are suspected of having contracted hepatitis, while 15 people have died from the disease, of whom six were pregnant women. The hepatitis E outbreak in Windhoek was declared in December last year following positive confirmation of nine laboratory-tested cases.
The outbreak is concentrated in the informal settlements of Havana, Goreangab, Hakahana, Greenwell Matongo, Ombili and the broader Katutura area. The vast majority of the patients are from the informal settlements of Havana and Goreangab.
Hepatitis E is a liver infection spread either by direct contact with an infected person’s faeces or by indirect faecal contamination of food or water.
Infection is more severe among pregnant women as they are at greater risk of acute liver failure, foetal loss and death.
The outbreak is fuelled mainly by a lack of clean water, poor sanitation and poor personal hygiene.
“We are seeing that there are still new cases in the areas of Windhoek every week and that’s actually not to be unexpected, it does take months to get the hepatitis E outbreak under control,” said Johnson.
She said the US embassy is currently in discussions with the health ministry on whether it will be useful for her country to send another team from US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to take a look at the epidemic and provide technical assistance and advice on the response.
“We will continue to assist, and I think in mid-July the National Health Emergency National Committee is got to have some sort of six months response review to see how we are doing altogether and what needs to be done next,” she said.
She said she thought it was very useful to see first-hand what are some of the challenges the residents face and how the responses are working.
Johnson was accompanied by the Khomas Governor Laura McLeod-Katjirua, Samora Machel Constituency Councillor Fanuel Shivute and health officials of both the City of Windhoek and the Ministry of Health.