Since 2020, the Ministry of Health and Social Services and the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the German Public Health Institute, collaborate through a Twinning Project. With this recently established partnership, an emergency support project was initiated during the largest COVID-19 wave (Delta variant) in Namibia when a sharp increase in hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients and deaths occurred (July 2021). This project was a close collaboration between the Ministry of Health and Social Services (MoHSS), the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the University of Namibia (UNAM) and the Research Centre Borstel (RCB). It focused on:
- Providing additional SARS-CoV-2 testing capacities and supporting genomic sequencing for the identification of circulating variants of concern
- Providing ventilation therapy equipment and consumables
- Supporting and improving clinical management of severely-ill COVID-19 patients through trainings
- Conducting a survey to better understand the hesitancy to get vaccinated with COVID-19 vaccine
On 12 May 2022 from 15:00 to 16:30, a ceremony took place to celebrate the collaboration between the Ministry of Health and Social Services, the Robert Koch Institute, University of Namibia, Research Center Borstel and other stakeholders. During the ceremony, the nation was updated about the collaboration during the COVID-19 pandemic as well as future activities of the Namibia-RKI Twinning Project.
The closing ceremony of the Stakeholder Meeting was officiated by Hon. Dr. Esther Muinjangue, Deputy Minister of MoHSS, Mr. Ben Nangombe, Executive Director of MoHSS, Clarissa Judmann, Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany and HE Mr. Martin Andjaba (virtually), Namibian Ambassador to Germany.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us: No country is safe until all countries are safe! Therefore, international collaboration is crucial to overcome this pandemic and be prepared for future epidemics and pandemics”, highlighted Mr. Ben Nangombe, Executive Director of the MoHSS. HE Mr. Martin Andjaba, Namibian Ambassador to Germany, adds: “A friend in need is a friend indeed! The Germans proved their friendship and partnership during these difficult times caused by COVID-19”. Clarissa Judmann shares: “The engagement of the Robert Koch Institute and the Research Center Borstel during the COVID-19 pandemic proofs once more the commitment of Germany for international cooperation, coordination and solidarity as key to an effective global response to COVID-19.”
Ms Petronella Masabane, Deputy Executive Director of the MoHSS and Namibian Project Lead, points out “One important lesson learnt from this pandemic is that having a National Public Health Institute would strengthen the epidemic and pandemic response capacities and, thus, enhance overall health security in Namibia!” Dr. Andreas Jansen, Head of RKI’s Information Center for International Health Protection and German Project Lead, emphasizes that “the well-established working relationships with partners in Namibia and Germany due to the Namibia-RKI Twinning Project enabled this needs based COVID-19 pandemic response support. We are looking forward to working together with all the partners on the project’s long-term aim of establishing a Namibia Institute of Public Health”.
Dr. Emmanuel Nepolo, Head of UNAM Diagnostic Laboratory, emphasizes “that Namibia is on a good way to build up laboratory capacities in the country that will make it less dependent on other countries”. Prof. Dr. Stefan Niemann, Head of RCB’s Molecular and Experimental Mycobacteriology Group and Visiting Professor to the University of Namibia, concludes that: “Strengthening of local capacity is key and the core of joint activities as for example done in another GHPP project (SeqMDRTB-Net) focusing on TB diagnostics and surveillance”.
The Ministry of Health and Social Services, the Robert Koch Institute and other partners are keen for the continuation of the Namibia-RKI Twinning Project and plan to submit a joint proposal for the upcoming Global Health Protection Programme Phase II (2023-2025). This proposal was developed jointly and agreed upon amongst the German, National and International stakeholders during the Stakeholder Meeting, 10-12 May.
Background Namibia-RKI Twinning Project
In 2020, the Ministry of Health and Social Services (MoHSS) and the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) embarked upon a Twinning Project with the long-term goal of establishing a Namibia Institute of Public Health (NIPH) (https://ghpp.de/en/projects/twinit/). The Twinning Project received funding from the GHPP as one of its priorities is sstrengthening national, regional and global public health systems.
Soon after the project start, in early 2020, the activities shifted to the joint fight against COVID-19. Despite difficulties such as lockdown and travel restrictions, RKI supported the Namibian COVID-19 response with the provision of urgently needed laboratory consumables, IT-equipment for the Emergency Operation Centre, and technical trainings and technical assistance. Highlights included that RKI together with the German International Cooperation (GIZ) enabled Namibia to conduct SARS-CoV-2 testing in-country from early in the pandemic (March 2020) and a COVID-19 response support mission with 23 technical experts in Namibia for 2 weeks (October 2020).