By Confidente Reporter
A special report on racism and discrimination, compiled by the Office of the Ombudsman, headed by John Walters, has revealed incidences where youth are being turned away when they wish to access contraceptives, and are even denied access to condoms, while being admonished for being too young for sex.
According to the report, key sections of the population have special health needs, such lubricants and condoms, and yet they are often denied these services at healthcare facilities, due to prejudices.
This, the reports states, is despite the fact that the Namibian Patient Charter explicitly states that there should be no discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation.
“There are specific offices where antiretrovirals (ARVs) are dispensed, thus making it obvious to all present why the patient is there. A comment from a visually impaired person was that he was ridiculed and laughed at, when asking for condoms at a clinic,” the report said.
“Written information is not available in braille and physical access to some health facilities is problematic, while due to a lack of information and distance from health centres, babies who are, for instance, born with club foot, which can be addressed if done within six weeks from birth, do not get the treatment required in a timely manner.”
The report further indicates that there is a perception that certain regions of the country are graced with better public services and are prioritised in terms of development, based on the tribe which is predominant in such regions.
According to the report, a member of the San community advised that clinics and hospitals are too far away, for the community to access these facilities meaningfully.
Members of the San community do not have the money for transport and even if they do manage to get there, they must describe their ailments in English, which they cannot do; they, therefore, just point to the general area of pain, and hope for the best.
“More generally, it was stated that access to ARVs and other treatments are compromised by medicine stock-outs, distance to facilities, a lack of sanitary pads keeping schoolgirls out of school and a lack of potable water and sanitation, which affects public health.”
The report further observed that in Namibia, “18 percent of women have an unmet need for contraception, while 19 percent of adolescent girls of ages 15 to 19 years old have begun childbearing, with some regions reporting proportions of more than 36 percent”.
“When a woman becomes pregnant, but has no access to quality antenatal care or has to deliver on her own, without the help of a midwife, her health, as well as that of her newborn, is at risk.
“Tackling inequalities in sexual and reproductive health, reaching the furthest behind first, is a good place to begin. It is not overly dramatic to say that the right to health is under severe threat in Namibia,” the report said further.
According to the report, public institutions are facing budget cuts and this had a major impact on the services that can be offered by the health ministry.
“There should never be a time when sick people are lying on mattresses on the floor, men and women mixed, not fully clothed, with their belongings and food on the floor next to them, as one member of the public testified.”
Accessibility has also been highlighted as one of the main concerns, given the vast regions of Namibia, and in many cases affordability not only impacts on the actual health services, but on the fact that the distance to such clinic or hospital cannot be travelled, due to a lack of funds to pay for transport.
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