Water and vector-borne diseases could spread
because of flooding

Tujoromajo Kasuto

The Ministry of Health and Social Services (MoHSS) is advising Windhoek residents to practice effective hygiene measures to reduce the risk of disease outbreaks.

The ministry is conducting surveillance to detect water and vector-borne diseases. This includes, in particular, data monitoring for diarrheal diseases, vomiting, and water testing after the capital was heavily flooded on Wednesday night. Ben Nangombe, Executive Director of MoHSS, says floods are accompanied by the contamination of safe water sources, which compromises the sanitation of public hygiene.

He adds that there is an increased risk of water-borne and vector-borne diseases, these include diarrheal diseases, hepatitis E and A, typhoid fever, malaria, and animal bites, especially from snakes and rodents when flooding. Nangombe adds that extremely low body temperatures due to prolonged water exposures, injuries due to structural damages and electrical shocks are also common during flood situations and may result in causalities, morbidity, and mortality. “Floods are known to cause loss of personal belongings including assistive devices for people with disabilities, leading to reduced mobility. Access and supplies for the treatment of chronic conditions such as hypertension, diabetes mellitus, tuberculosis, asthma, HIV/AIDS, and other essential treatment and services may be negatively affected. Moreover, floods, like other disasters, are associated with psychological trauma and stress that can have long-term effects on mental health,” he says.

In light of this, the ministry of and other stakeholders, working under the auspices of the National Health Emergency Management Committee, are distributing water purification tablets to all health facilities in the Windhoek Health District, which will be carried out by community health workers and volunteers from partner organizations. Furthermore, all health facilities must provide emergency refills of monthly medication for chronic conditions as well as other health-related commodities.Nangombe adds that mental health and psychosocial support would be provided as needed.

A ceremony to hand over 500, 000 water purification tablets to the Khomas Regional Council, which will be distributed to community members affected by the Windhoek flash flood was held. The tablets are to be used to purify water by community members whose supply of safe drinking water may have been disrupted by the flash flood. The occurrence of floods is among the priority public health emergencies, not only in Namibia but around the world.

Nangombe notes that while floods mainly occur in low-lying parts of the country, river and coastal flooding are also reported in Namibia. He says these phenomena are aggravated by climate change. “It is for this reason that the Disaster Risk Management systems at constituency and region levels have been activated to deal with this situation.”

In this regard, the MoHSS urges residents of the City, the Khomas Region, and the nation as a whole to take the necessary precautions and implement public health measures to avoid and mitigate potential health risks caused by flash floods. On Wednesday the City of Windhoek experienced an unprecedented flash flood which caused damage to homes, businesses and infrastructure. The flash flood also resulted in tragic and regrettable deaths.

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