Exciting news – BTH is considering launching a program in Namibia! Last month, a team of three BTH representatives -- Dr. William Cherniak, our Executive Director, Chair of the Board, and Cofounder of BTH, Adam Teitelman, our Director of Fundraising and Development, and Emma Forte Sczudlo, our Program Coordinator -- traveled to Namibia for a site visit for a potential new program! The team spent five days touring potential program sites and meeting with Namibian stakeholders, including faculty at the University of Namibia (UNAM), government officials, local healthcare professionals, and tribal leaders.
1. BTH meets students at the UNAM College of Health Sciences
We visited a few of the nation’s most medically underserved communities such as Hakahana (urban Windhoek), and Ongwediva, Oshakati, Engela, Eenhana, and Opuwo (rural districts in the Northern Namibia). The teams’ aim was to categorize the most pressing barriers to healthcare faced by Namibian citizens.
While financial resources and physical resources, such as supplies and equipment, were frequently scare, arguably, the utmost concern in each location we visited was the lack of human resources. This finding affirmed the importance of partnering with UNAM to plan and implement a joint program. UNAM is Namibia’s only university educating future doctors, dentists, nurses, pharmacists, and other healthcare professionals, and their curricula are designed to produce graduates who go on to practice in understaffed areas of the nation.
Insufficient transportation can also bar healthcare access. This issue is most pronounced in geographically diverse areas, where mountains and temporary rivers may encumber travel. Additionally, access is limited in poor communities, where individuals may not be able to afford transportation, and in very rural areas, which may not have paved roads.
2. BTH and UNAM representatives visit a Himba village near Opuwo
BTH determined that the most likely location for our brigade would be in and near Opuwo, a small town in Northern Namibia near the border of Angola. The areas surrounding Opuwo have difficult terrain; vast expanses of landscape are punctuated with towering mountains. The area is home to the Himba tribe, who are known for their nomadic, traditional lifestyle. A large influx of Angolans, visiting to obtain free healthcare, which is not available in their country, creates an additional burden to local health facilities.
We are composing a proposal to launch our program in mid-2019. In accordance with BTH’s model of comprehensive healthcare provision and education, we plan for each outreach clinic to serve as a one-stop shop for medical and dental care, in addition to public health resources. For this inaugural outreach “brigade,” we hope to incorporate a single training program, which would teach local healthcare providers to screen for rheumatic heart disease, a life-threatening condition that, according to the World Health Organization, is the most common acquired cardiovascular disease affecting children and young adults in poor conditions.