NAMIBIA: Action plan for local authorities
[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]
WINDHOEK, 4 October (PLUSNEWS) - Namibian municipalities are drafting action plans to strengthen community responses to tackling the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
To assist the process, an assessment and strategic planning toolkit was launched by the Alliance of Mayors and Municipal Leaders on HIV/AIDS in Africa (AMICAALL) at a local authorities conference in Windhoek last week.
According to Victoria Lonje, who heads the executive secretariat of AMICAALL, "Since the establishment of the Alliance, 13 countries in Africa have launched our programmes."
National chapters of the Alliance have been established in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Cote d'Ivoire, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.
"We mobilise and coordinate resources, enhance the cooperation among stakeholders and evaluate service delivery of local authorities," she noted.
In Namibia, where the executive secretariat of AMICAALL has been located since 2001, all towns and villages are on board and nine urban centres have advanced to action plans.
"A Namibian chapter office was set up and all 44 local authorities in Namibia are involved", said Moderatha Shaduka, who runs the office. "We support the strengthening of urban leadership to coordinate and monitor AIDS activities and link municipal response with national AIDS plans."
The main objective, says Shaduka, is to have local authorities working in partnership with civil society and local communities to translate the principles and goals of their multisectoral response plans into concrete action.
Funding will be provided by various donor partners, including the Global Fund, the OPEC Fund, the UN and individual countries like Spain and the Netherlands.
"Decentralising the response is a key factor in any success against the HIV/AIDS pandemic", said UN resident coordinator Simon Nhongo.
With the support of the Alliance, AIDS impact assessments have been completed in five large towns and four more are underway.
The realities are grim: Windhoek, the capital, has highest prevalence - around 32.2 percent of its approximately 250,000 citizens are HIV-positive; Otjiwarongo, 250 kilometres north of the capital has a HIV prevalence of 17.3 percent among its 28,000 residents; the northern town of Oshakati has a population of some 40,000 and an HIV prevalence of 24.9 percent.
Grootfontein, 500 kilometres north of Windhoek, is the first town to have completed a strategic HIV/AIDS action plan.
"We chose Grootfontein because it has a unique situation with the country's largest army base situated there", said consultant Randolph Mouton, who developed the AIDS assessment and strategic plan toolkit.
"Soldiers look for entertainment when they are off-duty and leave their base, so shebeens (casual drinking places) and alcohol abuse, street children, drugs, prostitution and the 'sugar daddy' problem - adult men paying young girls for sex and thus funding their school fees, clothing and food - is a big problem".
Grootfontein also lies along a major traffic route to northwestern Namibia, said Johann Colesky, a senior environmental health commissioner of the Grootfontein municipality who heads the local AIDS action committee.
"We looked at the impact HIV/AIDS will have on our municipal staff, and future capacities needed. Then we looked at our 14,000 inhabitants and how many households can afford to pay for the monthly municipal services."
Further projections were done to establish how many orphans would need care, the information campaigns on HIV prevention required, the availability and use of condoms, and where residents would be able to obtain antiretroviral therapy.
According to Colesky, the Grootfontein assessment revealed that there was still insufficient information about voluntary counselling and testing (VCT).
"Our strategic action plan reaches out to all levels," he said, "and to coordinate and align activities with other partners is now the next challenge."