Namibia: NBC Strike Hinders Vaccination Campaign

Government’s call for Namibians to get vaccinated against Covid-19 has largely fallen on deaf ears in rural Namibia as dead air engulfs the nation’s airwaves.

(NBC) workers went on strike on 22 April for better pay and working conditions.

The absence of the NBC Oshiwambo radio service has hindered the Covid-19 vaccination dissemination campaign in the Oshana region, said Penda Kashihakumwa, who is spearheading the campaign there. He explained that the campaign got off to a relatively slow start as the meeting points were initially announced on NBC’s Kati FM.

“The campaign is a bit slow because we were using NBC to announce our meeting points, but now that they are on strike, it is a bit challenging,” said Kashihakumwa.

Lebbeus Musongo from the Kavango East and West regional health directorate, who is the focal person for educating the community through the NBC Radio Wato

in local languages under the Covid-19 sub-pillar of Risk Communications and Community Engagement,

also noted that his work has been made difficult by the ongoing strike.

“We cannot reach a wider audience with information about the pandemic as well as the vaccination, especially in the remote inland areas where there are no newspapers, no internet as well as cell phones to keep them informed. Radio had made it easier to get information to them,” Musongo said.

“They depended on NBC Radio Wato. At the moment, we are not sure if our people in rural Kavango are aware of the vaccine, as well as where to get it. Yes, we do have health workers doing rounds here and there, but radio was effective as it reached a wider audience,” he reiterated. The Kavango West’s Ncuncuni constituency councillor Leopoldine Nseu said she got vaccinated on Friday, and health workers informed her about the low turnout, “which is alarming because Government wants to save lives through this vaccine programme. “Unfortunately, we are supposed to do more awareness on local radio to encourage our communities to get the shots, but we can’t do that without our NBC Radio Wato.”

Meanwhile, Kashihakumwa said they have changed the approach to hold information the session when the constituency councillors hold their public meetings to ensure that a vast number of people have access to information to enable them to make an informed decision on whether to get vaccinated or not.

In addition to not being able to announce the meeting points, Kashihakumwa said getting people to gather is also challenging as many are working in their crop fields.

“Our intention is to speak to as many people as possible, as long as we are within the stipulated Covid-19 regulations,” he noted. Kashihakumwa added that many leaders and healthcare workers in the region have been vaccinated.