Reflecting on a year of health challenges

As 2023 approaches its twilight, we revisit some of the key health stories that we covered during the year.

THE FIGHT AGAINST PROSTATE CANCER

The Namibian editor Tangeni Amupadhi’s decision to use his recent diagnosis of prostate cancer to motivate other men to get tested regularly received support from different quarters. Most people who listened to Amupadhi sharing his story on Desert Radio’s ‘The Pulse’, lauded the veteran scribe for his courage and wished him well.

He shared that the news of his diagnosis initially left him in shock and took some time to sink in.

His doctor broke the news to him on 1 August.

“I won’t forget that day. I was told to come with my wife, but unfortunately, Nankelo was not in town,” he said.

When he got to the doctor, he was informed that he had prostate cancer.

Amupadhi said even before his diagnosis, last year already, he wanted a doctor to come on Desert Radio to talk to men about the importance of going for regular prostate cancer screenings. However, this never materialised.

Amupadhi said he was “shell-shocked” following his diagnosis.

“I believe I have been living a very healthy lifestyle… I love to exercise… I don’t have a family history (of cancer),” Amupadhi said during the interview.

Tangeni Amupadhi

SURVIVING SUICIDE AND DEPRESSION

In a world where the shadows of despair often consume individuals, some rise above the darkness and find the strength within to overcome even the most debilitating mental health challenges.

One such person is Catherine Nanghama (47).

Nanghama said her depression started years ago when she was only 21 years old.

For so long, she desired to end her life, she said.

She said she tried to take her life three times in the past.

“I would describe depression as a mind thing, because it was really just in my head. I was such an overthinker, and that led to the worst days of my life.

“I’ve thought of taking my own life so many times that I’ve lost count.”
Nanghama, who has been married for over seven years, said this seemed impossible at first.

“The evenings were the worst time of the day, because that is when I encountered all sorts of negative thoughts.

“My family was always supportive of what I was going through. They assisted me with counselling, although it did not help me at the time.”

WINDHOEK CENTRAL HOSPITAL PATIENTS SLEEPING ON FLOOR

In October, several patients at the Windhoek Central Hospital were forced to sleep on the floor of the hospital’s corridors.

This was revealed by the parliamentary standing committee on gender equality, social development and family affairs, which undertook an inspection visit to the hospital.

“I am thankful for the nurses and doctors who constantly take care of us, but it is a nightmare when one has to be transferred to the ground, sleeping in the corridors, on the floor and on that thin mattress,” patient Liami Shikongo told The Namibian at the time.

She said this could worsen her illness.

“I don’t know whether it is an issue of space or a lack of beds, but we need the government to intervene in constructing a new hospital or renovating the hospital,” she said.

According to another patient, who preferred to remain anonymous, patients not only sleep on the floor, but are also served undercooked food.

“We are tired, they serve horrible food. Their chicken is undercooked and their food is tasteless,” she said.

Several patients complained of the same issues.

NAMIBIA SURPASSES TARGETS FOR CONTROLLING HIV

During the year, Namibia and Lesotho were announced as two of six African countries to have achieved HIV epidemic control.

This was announced by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) global health supply chain programme.

According to the findings, the two countries had high levels of viral suppression and retention in care, indicating effective treatment programmes.

Data from the Population-based HIV Impact Assessment surveys indicated that Lesotho and Namibia have made remarkable progress towards HIV epidemic control.

“There is high access to HIV care in Namibia, with more than 190 000 clients actively on antiretroviral therapy treatment, indicating significant progress towards reaching or exceeding the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV-AIDS’s 90–90–90 targets.

The project in Namibia implements various supply chain and technical assistance activities to ensure uninterrupted supplies of antiretroviral (ARV) medicines in the country,” the agency said.

According to the programme, technical assistance is provided to the Central Medical Stores in forecasting and quantifying the need for ARVs in the country.

45 CHILDREN DIE OF MALNUTRITION IN OMAHEKE

In July, Omaheke regional governor Pijoo Nganate said he was concerned after 45 children under five died in the previous six months as a result of the malnutrition crisis in the region.

Nganate said malnutrition cases are based on the registration for in-patient admission, and most children come from informal settlements.
Noting that this calamitous situation required a multi-sectoral and sustainable approach, the governor established the regional malnutrition task force.

Nganate said the task force is establishing a garden at the office premises to assist the affected communities, while inculcating a sense of responsibility and promoting community involvement and ownership.

According to Nganate, Omaheke is home to the second-largest population of the San community, and the government’s attempts to provide assistance through the San development programmes have produced fruitful outcomes.

DIABETES, ONE OF THE LEADING CAUSES OF DEATH IN NAMIBIA

Earlier this year, the World Health Organisation (WHO) revealed that about 90 000 Namibians are living with diabetes.

This was announced on World Diabetes Day on 14 November, observed under the theme ‘Access to Diabetes Care’ at the Windhoek Central Hospital by WHO officer in charge Mary Brantuo.

“Diabetes ranks among the top 10 causes of death worldwide. Over 537 million adults aged 20 to 79 are living with diabetes, which is an over five-fold increase from 108 million in 1980.

“This number is predicted to rise to 643 million by 2030 and 783 million by 2045,” she said.

Brantuo said the prevalence of diabetes has been rising more rapidly in low-and middle-income countries, and it is estimated that three in four adults with diabetes live in low- and middle-income countries.

“Diabetes was responsible for 6,7 million deaths worldwide in 2021, which translates to one diabetes death every five seconds,” she said.

Brantuo said 24 million adults in the African region are living with diabetes and these numbers are projected to increase to 55 million people by 2045.

“Diabetes is one of the leading causes of death among Namibians. This has devastating health and socio-economic consequences for individuals, families and communities,” she said.

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