Namibia records decrease in fertility
Windhoek – Namibia experienced a decline in fertility of two births over the past fifteen years, with fertility rates declining from 5.4 births per woman in 1990/92 to 3.6 births in 2005/07 says World Health Organisation (WHO) country representative Magda Robalo. “Developmental experts interested in aligning population growth with economic growth will tell you that this is a great achievement,” added Robalo who was speaking at the launch of the WHO Country Co-operation Strategy with Namibia 2010 to 2015. In her address on health in Namibia and WHO’s support, in which she mainly highlighted opportunities offered by developments in the health sector, Robalo said it was true that two in three births are still unwanted or wanted later. She added women with no formal education have on average six or more children, compared to women with completed secondary education who have less than three children. But still, it is great progress, she stressed. “Unless you are one of those who think that the population density of Namibia is too low and that this is not good news. But I am sure that you also know that the most important thing is for the population to grow at a pace which the economic growth can provide good quality of life for all…” she said. She said almost all Namibian women, 95 percent, receive antenatal care from health professionals. The majority – 81 percent – of births are delivered in a health facility, the large majority of them in public health facilities. “Yes, it is true that HIV/AIDS prevalence remains high, but did you know that we have an immense window of opportunity to tap into, because HIV/AIDS knowledge in Namibia is universal, although only 66 percent of men and women have comprehensive knowledge about it, including knowledge on modes of transmission and prevention. The foundation is there, we will not start from scratch but build on the knowledge opportunity,” she noted. The entire world is geared towards the elimination of mother to child transmission of HIV/AIDS. In Namibia there is a tremendous opportunity to achieve because a large majority of Namibians, (75%) of men and women know that the risk of mother to child transmission of HIV/AIDS can be reduced by taking preventative therapy. On the issue of universal access and related issues she said the majority; more specific two thirds of Namibian households have access to the nearest government facility by foot, despite significant regional differences. 20 percent of Namibian households are within 15 minutes of a government health facility and 60 percent can walk to the nearest government health facilities. She said “Yes, we should be worried about the 40 percent that needs to use transport means to get there and the government should definitely put emphasis on improving access by building or improving roads and possibly clinics. But for the 60 percent that can easily come, let’s ensure that they access quality services.” Officiating at the event Namibia’s Health and Social Services Minister Richard Kamwi said: “Achieving health outcomes requires contributions of multiple sectors including the private sector and it depends on the effective support from partners, both local and international.” “As we gather here today to launch the Namibia Country Cooperation Strategy with the WHO for the period 2010 to 2015, I am proud to say that we have been enjoying fruitful collaboration with the WHO since our independence,” Kamwi said.