Ms. Michele Russell, Acting Country Representative, USAID Namibia Remarks at Graduation of Community Health Workers Regional Council Hall, Outapi, Omusati Region
On behalf of USAID and the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, PEPFAR, I thank you for the opportunity to address you at this wonderful occasion – an occasion that can make us all proud. It is my great honor to be here with you today to witness the graduation of another group of trained Community Health Workers in Omusati.
The United States government collaborates closely with the Government of the Republic of Namibia to support the country’s goal of providing health for all and ending the HIV epidemic. Working with other development partners, such as the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the U.S. government has been supporting the Health Extension Program since its inception in 2012 when it began as a pilot project in the Opuwo District of the Kunene region.
The journey to today – when we are seeing even more Community Health Workers graduate – has been a long, but fruitful one. We are particularly delighted to see the deployment of trained health workers to the field, where they will provide much needed health services after their rigorous training conducted through the collaboration of the Ministry of Health and Social Services, USAID, UNICEF, WHO and other stakeholders.
To date, PEPFAR, through USAID, has provided over 4.5 million US-Dollars (or 60 million Namibian Dollars) to support Namibia’s community health program.
But it is not money alone that makes this program a success. It is also the long history of a strong partnership between our governments in the fight against HIV; the will to extend this fight even to the most remote corners of this beautiful land; and, the determination of health professionals such as yourselves that makes the Health Ministry’s unwavering commitment to the goal of UNAIDS’ 90-90-90 achievable. And, the good news is: Namibia is well on its way to reach that goal.
While we are close, we are not there yet. The last mile is the toughest, and so we need to redouble our efforts for this final, most important stretch. And for that, we need, first and foremost, dedicated people like you – the Community Health Workers out in the field.
By June 2017, a total of 1,688 Community Health Workers were trained, and 1,259 deployed to 16 health districts supported by PEPFAR to expand access to and increase the quality of integrated HIV and health extension services for vulnerable populations, including children, adolescents and young women. And with each graduation ceremony, we observe Namibia’s health system focusing more resources and attention on improving the health status of households, schools, communities, families, mothers and children.
To the graduates today, I would like to congratulate you for becoming part of an extended team of healthcare workers with one common goal: to improve access to public health in your communities.
As a Community Health Worker, you will be challenged every day by the situations you face, and the people with which you engage.
Most importantly, I encourage you to draw upon your training, communicate with your peers, village committees and other health care workers, and build those relationships of trust with the members of your community. It is you – working at the local levels and directly with the people of Namibia – who will make the country’s hope of an AIDS free generation a reality.
On behalf of the U.S. government, I congratulate the Health Ministry and our committed graduates and their families today. We wish each of you a successful deployment to your respective communities and applaud your work in making Namibia a healthier place.