Windhoek-The government has thus far spent N$4.7 million to control the hepatitis E outbreak, which has affected mainly the informal settlements of Windhoek since October 2017. This translates into a nearly N$1.5 million spending per month since the outbreak in the informal settlements of Havana, Goreangab, Hakahana, Greenwell Matongo, Ombili and the broader Katutura.
Two people have died from the hepatitis E virus, both pregnant women, who succumbed to hepatitis E complications after giving birth.
Yesterday the Ministry of Health and Social Services issued a statement that to date 490 cases of hepatitis E have been reported. Out of this, 166 people tested positive. Another 308 epidemiological cases were reported in households where infected people lived.
There are still 119 suspected cases with pending laboratory results.
Statistics indicate that the number of suspected cases among females is 212, while among males the number is 228. The most affected age group is the 20 to 39 year-old category. Havana informal settlement is the most affected with 249 cases reported. This is due to lack of toilets and potable water in the settlement.
The health ministry has budgeted nearly N$4 million while the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) donated US$60,400, which is N$724,800 at yesterday (Thursday)’s exchange rate.
In addition, the United Nations Children Fund (Unicef) donated 25,000 bars of soap and 50,000 packets of water purification tablets, which are aimed at water, sanitation and hygiene activities during the outbreak.
The Office of the Prime Minister offered 20 collapsible water storage tanks with a capacity of 4,000 litres for temporary potable water provision.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry provided 5,040 packets of water purification tablets in addition to one water tanker. NamWater provided two water tankers.
Many other stakeholders are on board with donations ranging from handwashing containers, capacity and volunteers.
At a media briefing yesterday the World Health Organisation (WHO)’s country representative, Dr Charles Sagoe-Moses, said this is in response to the outbreak.
The health ministry also investigated the water sources of people living in these areas and found that 92 percent of residents get their water from communal taps.
Pumwe Katjiuanjo of the health ministry explained that two percent of people reported that they get their water from unsafe open sources such as streams, ponds and rivers.
Water samples from the communal taps were taken and “we found that the water was reasonably clean,” said Katjiuanjo. The containers used to collect water were also checked and it was found that 51 percent of people have open containers while 49 percent have closed containers.
In addition, it was found that in 55 percent of the containers used for water there was some indication of fecal matter.
It was also found that a large number of people in informal settlements practise open defecation and urination. Dirty toilets and running drainage systems are linked to have contributed to the outbreak of hepatitis E, indicated Katjiuanjo.
The Windhoek City Council in response to the outbreak has resorted to cleaning up the informal settlements. In addition, there is a plan in place to address sanitation.
“Our engineers are at work trying to address the issue of sanitation. The budget for sanitation is very huge. It’s very costly to construct flushing toilets. We don’t want latrines because they have their shortcomings,” said a Windhoek municipal employee at the press briefing.
Sagoe-Moses, who emphasized the need for more toilet construction in the informal settlements, said the construction of toilets should be done in collaboration with the community.
“City of Windhoek and the community should sit together so that we can bring this outbreak to a halt,” said Sagoe-Moses.
Health minister Dr Bernard Haufiku also re-iterated that part of addressing the problem is to provide basic amenities to people.
“We must provide toilets in an appropriate number,” he said. Windhoek is struggling to control the number of people who come to the city in search of greener pastures, noted Haufiku.
“The number of people coming to town is not planned,” said Haufiku.