Meet the youths on the frontlines of Namibia’s COVID-19 fight

A woman (R) waits to be tested for COVID-19 at a mobile facility in Windhoek, capital of Namibia. (Xinhua/Jacobina Mouton)

Young nurses’ passion for bolstering health care for patients gets stronger in Namibia despite risks posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The country with a population of about 2.5 million has recorded 115,793 cumulative cases, including 2,760 deaths, due to COVID-19.

“Although risky to our health, I feel it is good to help and observe people’s health improve. It is a passion,” said Nomhle Masuku, a registered nurse at the Katutura State Hospital in the capital Windhoek.

Although routinely posted at the maternity ward, Masuku is attached to the COVID-19 unit at the hospital to address the skills deficit since last year.

In recent weeks, an increase in the number of new infections increased the number of patients who need hospitalization and subsequently the demand from the health professionals.

“It has not been easy. But being able to make a difference, to give back and help erases the strain of long hours of hard work,” she added.

Boitumelo Lekobane has been working as a nurse for about seven years at a local hospital in Windhoek. Despite the demanding career in health, love and enthusiasm for taking care of patients keep her grounded.

“I love being a nurse, and I enjoy the fact that one never knows how you are impacting your patient,” she said.

It has been difficult, she admits, yet the COVID-19 pandemic has brought many lessons, particularly appreciation for life.

“There are people who acknowledge and appreciate the work that we do. It motivates one to do better,” she added.

When thwarted and overwhelmed, Masuku reminds herself of why she chose the vocation. Of note is a personal encounter that drew her to her nursing career.

“I always just wanted to help people. As a child, my grandmother got sick, and she needed help, so I think that drew me into this path field of nursing and medicine,” Masuku said.

Namibian President Hage Geingob this month commended the resilience of frontline workers amid the pandemic.

“True character is revealed in times of crisis. I thank all our healthcare and frontline workers for their tireless, daily sacrifices which they selflessly render for the common good,” Geingob said.

Moreover, to address the staff shortage, the Namibian government is recruiting more health professionals, including retired nurses.

The Ministry of Health and Social Services has also provided additional 1,050 beds at existing hospitals countrywide.

“Currently, any patient that needs hospitalization is guaranteed a bed with oxygen supply. Deliberate steps have also been taken to improve the supply and availability of life-saving oxygen to our health facilities,” said Kalumbi Shangula, Minister of Health and Social Services.

The frontline workers urge locals to take precautions and safeguard their health.

“Take care of yourself and observe the COVID-19 protocols of wearing the masks, keep a safe distance and sanitize,” Lekobane said.