Stigma posing challenge to Namibian COVID-19 fight

Wednesday, August 19th, 2020 00:00 |
People wait to be tested for COVID-19 at a health facility in Windhoek, capital of Namibia, Aug. 17, 2020. (Xinhua/Jacobina Mouton)


Locals across Namibia are publicly sharing their COVID-19 testing results and experiences to shun stigma as cases increase. Namibia has recorded 4,154 confirmed cases, with 2,370 recoveries and 35 deaths.

When Lauri Williams was identified as a secondary contact of a COVID-19 positive confirmed case, even after quarantine and negative results, reintegration into society was not easy.

"You could see people pointing at you. Some would not want to associate with you and thus face stigma. So you can imagine the discrimination faced by those who test positive," Williams said.

Some people who have tested positive for COVID-19, their primary and secondary contacts in Namibia encountered discrimination and stigma, said Hileni Ndjaba, a psychiatric in the Ministry of Health and Social Services.

To counter the impact, Wiliams shared her experience publicly.

She is not the only one. Eliz Amutenya, who recently recovered from COVID-19, also shared her experience and reflection of COVID-19 publicly.

"It is not an easy phase to undergo. But I received a lot of support from my family and work, which carried me through," she said.

For Amutenya, she shared her experience not only to fight stigma but to give hope to those battling with the virus.

"To let others know that COVID-19 is real, it does not discriminate and so we shouldn't either," she said Monday.

Complementary, locals have also fused traditional messages with social media to spread the message of hope.

Tulela, a young lady who tested positive, said she turned to the Chinese social media platform TikTok to spark optimism to others.

Prominent officials have also shared their results publicly for openness. These include Secretary to Cabinet George Simataa, who tested positive for COVID-19. Results of presidential advisor Inge Zaamwani-Kamwi, who tested positive for COVID-19 on Aug. 13 were also publicly announced by the Presidency.

In the meantime, experts say that due to the novelty of COVID-19, stigma is persistent in both healthcare environments and broader society.

According to Ndjaba, despite people having recovered and declared COVID-19 negative, a challenge is observed with their integration back into society.

"One of the serious problems is stigma. People stigmatize others, possibly because this is a new virus. We should stop stigmatizing," she said.

That is not all. Stigma is also likely to trigger mental health problems, according to Lahja Hamunyela, an official from the health fraternity.

Types of mental and emotional issues anticipated as a result of COVID-19 include panic attacks, depression, anxiety as well as acute stress because the diagnosed person goes into shock.

"Those that do not have a strong support system are more vulnerable. Support should be accorded, mentally and emotionally. Also, complimented by hope and have faith, self-protection, healthy diet and physical exercise. Overall, support by society remains a crucial factor in overcoming COVID-19," she added.

In the interim, the Ministry of Health and Social Services has embarked on robust public education; issuing several messages on COVID-19. The messages are also inclusive of non-discrimination plea as well as a call for adherence to safety and hygiene measures such as handwashing, sanitizing, wearing of masks and social distancing. (Xinhua)

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