As a signatory to the International Health Regulations (IHR), Namibia is required to strengthen its core capacities for health security. Following the Joint External Evaluation (JEE) in 2016, the country invested resources to attend to the recommendations from the JEE report. A National Action Plan for Health Security was also launched in 2020. As part of this process, National IHR Focal Point Network was updated in early 2021 and 15 IHR focal persons were identified from various ministries and agencies using the one health approach.
On 12 September 2021, the Ministry of Health and Social Services with support from WHO held an orientation on IHR to help strengthen the function of the focal points. The orientation aimed to:
- To provide an overview of the International Health Regulations IHR (2005) and the Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response as WHO AFRO strategy for IHR implementation
- To describe the National IHR Focal Points and explain its mandatory functions in accordance with the IHR.
- To practice the use of the Decision Instrument under Annex 2 of the International Health Regulations
- To explain the monitoring and evaluation framework and its components
- To list the different IHR learning resources, including the NFP Knowledge Network
Representation was multi-sectoral with participants from the Ministry of Health and Social Services (Radiation and Control, Laboratory, Public and Environmental Health, Communication/Public Relation ), Office of the Prime Minister (Disaster Risk Management), Ministry of Agriculture Water and Land Reform (Zoonotic Control and Plant Health), Agro-Marketing and Trade Agency (AMTA) and Namibia Institute of Pathology (NIP).
One of the core functions of the IHR focal persons is to notify WHO IHR Contact Points of all events which may constitute a public health emergency of international concern within the Republic of Namibia and the health measures implemented in response. The focal points are required to provide ongoing public health information to WHO on the notified event. Coordination of partners and disseminating information between relevant partners and WHO is also one of the core functions.
The orientation covered key themes including:
- An overview of International Health Regulations (2005) and the Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response (IDSR)
- Understanding the mandatory functions of IHR NFP in accordance with the IHR.
- Practising the use of the Decision Instrument under Annex 2 of the International Health Regulations
- Understand the IHR monitoring and evaluation framework and its components
- Grasp the different IHR learning resources including the NFP Knowledge Network
To operationalize the IHR Focal Points Network in Namibia, the team agreed to draft an action plan and engage WHO for support, ensure that they receive appointment letters to officiate their function and institute regular meetings.