Namibia Launched the National Action Plan for Health Security (NAPHS)
Health emergencies including the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic highlighted weaknesses in countries’ emergency preparedness and response. COVID-19 adversely affected socio- economic status of countries and had disastrous human consequences. It compelled the world to look at population health as a cause and consequence of sustainable development.
In order to adequately manage these public health emergencies, the country requires strengthened and robust preparedness capacity to efficiently respond to health threats in the context of International Health Regulations (IHR, 2005). It required countries to have an introspect on their health systems and how to adopt an all society, all of government approach to health while increasing investment in health emergency preparedness and response, strengthening social protection mechanisms for the most vulnerable and offering a lifeline to small and medium enterprises. It required governments to conduct business differently and is most likely to shape fiscal policies of many governments as they attempt to recover from the economic strain that was sadly witnessed in all sectors.
Prevention, preparedness and early detection become pivotal if the world is to circumvent another event of this magnitude to occur. In response to this, the Namibian government launched the National Action Plan for Health Security (NAPHS) on 8 December 2020. The Namibian Health Security Plan is based on the One health approach to prevent, promptly detect and effectively respond to human, animal and environmental public health threats such as the ongoing Hepatitis E Virus outbreak and COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking at the launch, WHO Representative, Dr. Charles Sagoe-Moses stressed the need for effective surveillance systems and better preparedness. He said WHO Regional Office for Africa receives reports of approximately 100 acute public health events annually of which 88% are infectious diseases and only 12% are humanitarian crises. He applauded the Namibian government for embracing the one-health approach in developing the NAPHS and anchoring the plan on the principles of universal health coverage. He further commented the plan for considering infectious diseases originating from animal-human interface, as almost 75% of public health emergencies are attributed to this. This helps the government to prepare and respond better to any public health emergency.
‘Namibia experienced a significant number of outbreaks in past years such as Cholera, Anthrax, Rabies, Crimean Congo Hemorrhagic Fever, Polio, Hepatitis E Virus and the current COVID-19 pandemic with high morbidity, mortality and adverse socio-economic impacts’ said Dr Kalumbi Shangula, Minister of Health and Social Services as he launched the NAPHS. He said that the plan is aligned to WHO International Health Regulations and is a response to a Joint External Evaluation conducted in 2016. The Joint External Evaluation highlighted the importance of government’s commitment to strengthen health security, national financing for sustainability, role of legislatures in national funding decisions, role of community engagement, private sector engagement and resilient health systems in health security.
The Namibian Health Security Plan takes into account a set of guiding principles and core values including resilience, country ownership and leadership, community engagement, partnership and intersectoral and multi-disciplinary collaboration. The plan requires N$ 576 323 486 for a 5-year period to be implemented. WHO provided support to the government from the early stages of the Joint External Evaluations till the launch of the NAPHS and will continue to partner with the government of Namibia in its implementation.