Namibia's Children

Namibia's Children


Early Years

© UNICEF/Manuel Moreno/2013

A child has a right to life, survival and development. He or she has a right to health and health services, as well as a right to an adequate standard of living. He or she has a right to an identity.

Namibian infants and young children are likely to find these rights fulfilled, though there are areas where society fails to provide these basics to all children. Progress in the support and care of babies and infants is mixed. Successes include the high numbers of mothers who receive antenatal care, who give birth in health facilities, and who receive Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission (PMTCT) services where needed. Concerns arise in the following areas: rising rates of maternal mortality, little or no improvement in infant mortality, high rates of waste, and low levels of immunisation and birth registrations.

Most mothers today attend antenatal clinics and many give birth with a medical professional present. Yet the number of children and mothers dying at childbirth, or in the year after, is rising again after falling in the 1990’s. Despite the fact that over 90% of mothers are receiving antenatal care and over 80% are attended at birth by a trained birth attendant, it is unlikely that the MDGs will be reached. The rising death rates are partly explained by the indirect effects of AIDS, although the effect is hard to quantify.

The costs of access to the health system, particularly when treatment - such as antenatal care and vaccinations - requires several visits to a clinic, have an effect on the overall effectiveness of a programme. Quality of health care support will also vary according to location, with pockets of lower standard care. Northern rural areas suffer in particular from staff and resource shortages.

Other factors relate to the social, economic and educational status of the mother. Children of mothers over 40 years are particularly at risk, as are, to a lesser degree, children of teenage mothers. Children who are born within two years of a previous child are also at greater risk. The way in which mothers handle diseases like diarrhoea also has an effect; many mothers know about oral rehydration therapy but the children of less educated mothers are more likely to die from diarrhoea than other children.

Poverty levels amongst mothers have defined impacts as well. Poorer mothers live further from health facilities, report difficulty in transportation because of cost and thus attend less frequently for post natal care. Many are also unable to afford formula milk if they are HIV positive and have to use wood for cooking (a factor in acute respiratory infection). Low birth weight and high numbers of children (29%) who are found to be either moderately or severely stunted are also likely linked to poverty and lower levels of education of parents and care givers.

Progress towards vaccination targets for children is not as strong as was hoped when policies were written and resources allocated. Only 70% of births are currently being registered. These are important foundations for a child’s future. Efforts have been made to work across ministries and departments to remedy these challenges and this analysis highlights how it appears that children and mothers at risk can be identified according to their background. More work targeting at-risk infants and children would be valuable.

Finally, the importance of early childhood education is slowly being recognised through programmes of the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare (MGECW) and the Ministry of Education (MoE). The City of Windhoek is also being active in this field. Around 50,000 children benefit from Early Childhood Development (ECD) programmes (about half the number of children who should benefit) but further efforts will be needed to ensure that all provision meets basic standards. 



 Email this article

unite for children