U.S. Ambassador to Namibia Randy Berry traveled to the Oshana, Oshikoto, and Ohangwena regions on May 8-11 to engage beneficiaries of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), senior government officials, and various members of the community.
On Tuesday, Ambassador Randy Berry paid a courtesy visit to the Oshikoto and Ohangwena Regional Governors, Honorable Penda Ya Ndakolo and Honorable Walde Ndevashiya respectively. The Ambassador highlighted the success of the strong PEPFAR partnership with the Namibian Ministry of Health and Social Services (MoHSS). “I am happy with the continuous partnership in health between our two governments. Our success is evident in the thousands of lives saved and years added to Namibians’ life expectancies. We are proud to support Namibia at the cusp of the HIV epidemic control,” said Ambassador Berry. Both regional governors thanked the Ambassador for the assistance the U.S. embassy invests in health and the Namibian economy in the regions.
Ambassador Berry and his team continued their official engagements in Oshakati, where they met with the Oshana Regional Governor, Honorable Elia Irimari, and Mayor of Oshakati Town, His Worship Leonard Hango. During their discussions, Governor Irimari mentioned that he is keen on maintaining the cooperation between the United States and Namibia through the strengthening of cultural exchanges amongst other values. Thereafter, Ambassador Berry visited the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) funded library in Oshakati, where he met library staff and toured the state-of-the-art building. The Ambassador was struck by how the community continues to use the library as an educational and community outreach center a decade since it was initially built.
While visiting Oshakati, Ambassador Berry attended a Development Aid from People to People (DAPP) graduation ceremony for HIV positive mothers whose infants have reached the age of 18 months and are HIV free. DAPP is a civil society organization supported by PEPFAR through the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC). One of the projects supported by DAPP helps HIV positive mothers stay on antiretroviral treatment during pregnancy and throughout breastfeeding to prevent mother-to-child transmission. As a celebration of success, DAPP holds graduation ceremonies to honor mothers and infants who reach 18 months without HIV infection. At the event, Ambassador Berry congratulated the mothers for keeping themselves and their children healthy, and expressed his thanks to the Ministry of Health and DAPP for providing such important support services that make a positive, practical and life-changing difference to peoples’ lives.
Ambassador Berry also visited the Oshakati State Hospital where he engaged with youth from Namibia Adolescent Treatment Supporters (NATS) as well as a Peace Corps Volunteer providing support to this program. NATS are young people living with HIV who support children and adolescents living with HIV. This peer-led model provides mentoring and support to children and adolescents living with HIV to know their status, understand and accept their HIV status, take their medication, and link those who test negative to HIV prevention services such as Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP).
On day two, Ambassador Berry arrived at the Onandjokwe State Hospital in Ondangwa to engage with PrEP Ambassadors. PrEP Ambassadors are part of the Determined Resilient Empowered AIDS-free Mentored and Safe (DREAMS) program managed through implementing partner Project HOPE. Their primary role entails creating awareness about HIV prevention and mobilizing eligible individuals to take their medication. The program is funded by PEPFAR through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Ambassador Randy Berry then had the opportunity to visit a poultry business, established by DREAMS program beneficiary Beata Moses in the Elombe village, Oniipa district. During her engagement with Ambassador Berry, Beata highlighted how the DREAMS program equipped her with the necessary skills to start her poultry business. She says her business continues to grow in leaps and bounds, serving both the community of Elombe, and Ondangwa.
Later that afternoon, Ambassador Berry visited the Ongwediva Sam Nujoma Multi-Purpose Center, which houses one of the three American Corners in Namibia. During their discussions with Ongwediva Town Mayor, His Worship Taarah Shalyefu highlighted the success of the corner. “The town does not have a library, but the corner serves as one for our community. It is a great resource for both school learners and university students,” said Shalyefu. During the walk through, Ambassador Berry had the opportunity to engage with another Peace Corps Volunteer assisting the Sam Nujoma Multi-Purpose Center with supporting orphans and vulnerable children, conducting community outreach services and co-facilitating youth education programs and camps around sexual reproductive health. Ambassador Berry then traveled to visit the Onakamwandi outreach point, established to bring healthcare services to the community of Onakamwandi with the support of MoHSS and CDC. Previously, residents would travel long distances to access health services. “Making it easier for people to get the healthcare services they need helps people to stay healthy; we are proud to be working with MoHSS and the communities to bring health services closer to people” said Ambassador Berry.
Ambassador Berry ended the day with a USAID moonlight event in Oshakati. The moonlight activity aims to provide HIV and reproductive health services including testing and treatment, access to family planning options, condoms, and lubricants as well as protective Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) and Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) to key populations.
On his final day, Ambassador Randy Berry traveled to the Ohangwena Region where he toured the Namibia Institute of Pathology’s (NIP) lab in Eenhana which provides HIV and tuberculosis testing services. The tour was followed by a visit to the Oshikango border healthcare outreach points. The three prefabricated containers were established to bring healthcare services closer to vulnerable groups such as people traveling from neighboring country Angola, sex workers, and truck drivers, through the support of PEPFAR, MoHSS and the Walvis Bay Corridor Group. The Ambassador then proceeded to Ondangwa to engage with Community Adherence Groups (CAG). CAGs are groups of 6-12 people living with HIV who meet in the community to receive their medicine and obtain any general healthcare services they may need. One member of the group is responsible for collecting medicine from the local clinic, reducing the time and cost it takes to collect medicine. The medication is then distributed during group meetings. The groups also provide support and motivation to each other. The CAGs have been established with funding from PEPFAR and CDC in partnership with the MoHSS and DAPP. During the engagement with the Ambassador, the CAGs performed a drama explaining how and why community adherence groups help people to stay on treatment and be healthy.
When asked about the visit to the northern regions, Ambassador Randy Berry had this to say. “This has been an incredible week. I have seen firsthand the impressive, diverse, comprehensive support, and milestones that PEPFAR and the Namibian government have achieved over the years. I am proud of our partnership in health with Namibia as we look to see what future challenges we can tackle together.”