NPPA reaches out

By Theresia Tjihenuna
October 2012
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For 16 years now, the Namibia Planned Parenthood Association (NAPPA) has been offering information, education and counseling services to Namibians on sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Even though these services are widely available and offered free, many Namibians are not aware of them and the country registers many unmet sexual and reproductive health needs, according to NAPPA’s Anthony Muganza.

The Fifth Africa Conference on Sexual Health and Rights (5ACSHR) held between 19th and 21st of last month was hosted by NAPPA under the auspices of the African Federation for Sexual Health and Rights.

The conference, themed “Sexual Health and Rights in Africa, where are we?”, served as a platform for advocates, activists, health workers, social workers, policy brokers and all people of influence including politicians and religious leaders to network and share information on the advancement of sexual health and rights in Africa.

More than 500 delegates from across the world attended the conference that focused on law and policy frameworks on sexual health and rights.

President Hifikepunye Pohamba officially opened the conference saying that the African continent was grappling with several reproductive health and rights challenges, which needed urgent attention. The president further said that research should be done to unravel new dimensions that could help Namibia and other African countries deliver better services to the people with regard to reproductive health.

Zambian First Lady, Christine Kaseba-Sata who was a guest speaker at the conference highlighted the need for African countries to do more for the rights and safety of women and girls with a particular focus on sexual and reproductive health.

Mrs. Sata outlined some of the policies and agendas that Zambia has put in place to ensure that women’s sexual health and rights are advocated for.

She called upon African leaders to make cancer-care services more accessible and affordable to all, especially for cervical cancer patients. She furthers stated that cervical cancer has been reported as one of the leading causes of death of African women in sub-Saharan Africa.

These deaths, she added, would be prevented if the right measures were put in place.

NAPPA is a national provider of sexual and reproductive health and rights information, education and services. The organisation was founded in 1996 and is affiliated to the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF).

The organisation runs four clinics - in Windhoek (Okuryangava), Katima Mulilo, Outapi and Walvis Bay. Community operations are in eight of the thirteen regions excluding Kunene, Omaheke and Karas. Community activities are led by the community-based reproductive health agents (CBRHAs) who are reaching out to communities at grassroots level. The agents visit community centers, households, churches, and schools for mobilisation, education and referral activities.

According to Muganza, the CBRHAs are trained to meet the demands of the community. The organisation offers training and skills building opportunities to staff and CBRHAs internally and abroad through the global IPPF network. “NAPPA’s niche is to reach out to the marginalised, underserved and underprivileged communities of Namibia, the youth and women. At our clinics, people who are victims of social and economic exclusions find our services helpful, and particularly friendly.”

He adds that, “although the organisation does not support abortion, the clinics offer post-abortion care services to support the restoration of health for many girls and women who commit unsafe abortions.”

“We are very aware that abortion is illegal in Namibia. As an organisation, we subscribe to government policies on population and reproductive health. While this is true, unsafe abortions and baby dumping are a reality in today’s Namibia. Many girls resort to using home-made concoctions to terminate their pregnancies and those [keep] the pregnancy most often than not dump their babies. In each case there are social and health concerns raised for our response.”

The services offered at the clinics, he clarifies, are not widely accessed since people may get the wrong idea and mistake their interventions for an abortion clinic. “Our key focus area is to discourage the masses on unsafe abortion practices and encourage safer sexual relationships to avoid unwanted pregnancies and uptake of modern family planning methods,” he emphasizes.

The clinics operate as a walk-in medical service centre; no pre-appointments are necessary and patients get immediate assistance, followed by one-on-one private counseling sessions with friendly clinic staff and counselors.

The organisation is subsidised by its international mother body (IPPF) alongside Government, which is its biggest supplier of medical commodities.

“Many people in Namibia are still rooted in and heavily linked to cultural norms and practices even with the evolution of cultures. Moreover, we are still divided when it comes to what is morally right or wrong,” says Muganza. He explains increased advocacy, awareness creation and education would lead to more tolerance, respect, understanding and acceptance of everyone and indeed an inclusive society.

“Society continues to judge and exclude its own members based on several prejudices such as sexual orientation,” he continues. “ At our clinics, we strive to bridge this gap, ensuring that our clients not only know but enjoy their rights in a friendly service environment. Our service providers are trained to respect, understand, tolerate and accept every client in their unique circumstances regardless.”

One of the challenges the organisation faces is reaching out to the disabled community: “We have an open partnership with the disability centre in Katutura but [are] always unable to respond comprehensively to the sexual and reproductive health needs of people living with disabilities. Communication is barred where we don’t have signers and access to services is limited because our services are in static clinics - most people living with disabilities are often home-bound and cannot make it to the clinics on their own.”

When it comes to the escalating number of teenage pregnancies in the country, the organisation has introduced a few programmes in response. “Unfortunately, teachers are usually named as culprits who impregnate schoolgirls. As part of a conference outcome on teenage pregnancies the Kavango Region (2010), NAPPA introduced two curriculum-based intervention programmes. One is the Life Skills Education (LSE) programme targeting learners of the lower grades and the other is the Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) for senior learners. Both programmes are aimed at improving personal awareness and build skills in leading healthy sexual lives for beneficiaries and ultimately prevent pregnancies, STIs and HIV,” Muganza explains.

Although there are challenges in fully meeting the needs of sexual and reproductive health and rights in the country, Muganza says that NAPPA is determined to reach out more widely in partnership with government and the civil society in order to improve the situation for ordinary Namibians. PF