UNFPA assists in fight against Hepatitis E outbreak

2 February 2018
UNFPA Namibia Country Representative Ms. Dennia Gayle was among the partners of UN and government officials who accompanied President Hage Geingob. Emma Mbekele UNFPA NAMIBIA

Windhoek, Namibia – The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) together with UNICEF and WHO, is assisting the Government of the Republic of Namibia to fight an outbreak of Hepatitis E on the outskirts of the national capital, Windhoek.

More than 800 people are suspected of having contracted Hepatitis while five people have died from the disease, which was first reported in October 2017. Of the five who died, three were post-partum women.

The outbreak is concentrated in the informal settlements of Havana, Goreangab, Hakahana, Greenwell Matongo, Ombili and the broader Katutura, while the majority of the patients are from the informal settlements of Havana and Goreangab.

Hepatitis E is a liver disease spread by either direct contact with an infected person's faeces or by indirect fecal contamination of food or water. Infection is more severe among pregnant women as they are at greater risk of acute liver failure, fetal loss and mortality.

The outbreak is fueled mainly by lack of clean water, poor sanitation and poor personal hygiene. Since the outbreak, the Ministry of Health and Social Services has carried out assessments in 2 500 households in the affected areas, with an average household consisting of four people. The assessment revealed that 68% of households defecate in the open, 92% of them collect water from communal taps, 2% collect water from open/unsafe water sources, while 6% have household taps.

Namibian President H.E. Hage Geingob visited the affected areas in Havana informal settlement on 2 February 2017 and emphasized the importance of basic sanitation as Hepatitis E is not an inherit disease like cancer and other ailments, but spread through poor hygiene. The President also urged communities to stop vandalizing public toilets and to take care of them as they belong to them.

UNFPA has so far pledged more than N$720 thousand towards fighting the outbreak. The funds will be used to train health and community workers, support community health education as well as the development of communication materials among others.

“While women and girls are mostly affected by the outbreak; they can also play a critical role in controlling its spread by ensuring a certain level of hygiene,” said UNFPA Namibia Country Representative Ms. Dennia Gayle.