Windhoek — Excellencies,
It is a great pleasure for me to participate in this important event marking World Health Day 2021. Given the devastation by the pandemic of the world since 2020, it is timely that the community of nations should start considering the strategies and indeed the ways and means of building a fairer, healthier world, post-COVID-19.
The fact that the Director-General of WHO has invited us to be part of this year’s event speaks to the urgency of fostering recovery for the entire world from the economic and social devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Building a fairer and healthier world will demand joint and concerted action. It will require that we, as members of the human family, stand resolutely together, to do everything that is required to return our societies to normalcy. Our people, young and old, have been traumatized. Lives and livelihoods have been disrupted.
For Namibia, a country that has been deeply scared by more than a century of colonialism and racial oppression, the theme of building fairer and healthier societies, resonates vividly with us. This is an objective that we have fought for during our national liberation struggle. It is a goal we have pursued since the dawn of our freedom and independence 31 years ago. Our Constitution, the various pieces of legislation promulgated by our lawmakers, the policies and programmes we have adopted and implemented have been aimed at building an equitable and just society in which no one feels left out.
Towards this end, the first major policy decisions implemented by the post-independence government in 1990 is the Policy of National Reconciliation. This is because we believe that fairness can only prevail when the wounds of the past are healed. This has laid the foundation of our desire to reshape our country into a fairer and healthier society. Every tragedy brings forth new insights. This is true for the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite its speed and ferocity, the pandemic compelled humanity to act in unison to overcome a common enemy.
The Public Health Measures adopted by most, if not all countries around the world demonstrated that the international community can reach consensus to address a common challenge. It demonstrated that as leaders of the world, we are able to stand together, and speak with one voice. This, I believe should be a springboard for the concerted action and common purpose to address other equally important challenges facing humanity today.
The manner in which nations have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrate, the old adage, that “where there is a will, there is a way”. As world leaders, we summon the necessary political will to collectively address the devastation brought by COVID-19 on the global economy. For Namibia, our National Response and Preparedness meant that we were able to strengthen our health system in various aspects, such as expanding physical infrastructure, bringing on board more health professionals, procuring medical equipment, consumables and supplies, as well as improving our monitoring and evaluation systems.
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Namibia paid early for vaccines but has not yet received anything and has relied on COVID-19 vaccines from friends, such as India and China.
It meant that we were able to expand the provision of hygiene and sanitation services thereby simultaneously addressing the causes and spread of diseases associated with poor hygiene.
A fairer and healthier world also means that our global approach, must necessarily address the root causes of both unfairness and poor health in all their manifestations. The social determinants of health must therefore receive our full attention.
In this regard, we must speak not only of availability of opportunities and health services, but of equitable access to essential tools such as the COVID-19 vaccines, tests and treatment for both the small and big countries, to move closer to Universal Health Coverage.
I wish to express my disappointment in the manner in which COVID-19 vaccines are being distributed, and this points to a form of vaccine Apartheid. Namibia is one of the countries to have paid early for the vaccines. To date, Namibia has not yet received anything and has relied on COVID-19 vaccines from friends, such as India and China. I always say that inclusivity spells harmony and exclusivity spells harmony.
There is no other alternative but to collaborate in our fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, and by so doing to build together a fairer and healthier world. May we all commit to this noble goal as we commemorate World Health Day 2021.