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Ben Nangombe, Executive Director of MoHSS (center) with Dr. Sirak Hailu of WHO Namibia and Nicole Miller, Acting Country Representative of USAID (L) presenting award to Namibian journalist for exemplary reporting on COVID -19.

Acting USAID Country Representative Nicole Miller and MOHSS Executive Director Ben Nangombe check the Ministry of Health’s updated website.

Windhoek – The Department of Health and Human Services, with support from the United States, has launched an updated website and social media campaign aimed at providing correct information and tackling fake news about COVID-19 vaccines and the pandemic. Online and messaging platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have been identified as powerful public influencers when it comes to COVID-19 in both positive and negative ways.

“Although the number of infections in Namibia is currently low, we all know that COVID-19 has not gone away. New variations and future waves cannot be ruled out. We must be prepared as a nation and as individuals – and science tells us that the most prepared are those who are vaccinated,” said USAID Acting Country Representative Nicole Miller. “With just over 28% of the population vaccinated in Namibia, we still have a long way to go to reach the 70% vaccination rate recommended by the World Health Organization.”

“We are extremely proud of the joint communications work we have done with our development cooperation partners to create platforms to disseminate correct information to the public and limit the spread of misinformation. While the ‘infodemic’ cannot be stopped, it can be managed through campaigns and collaborations like these,” said Ministry of Health and Human Services Executive Director Ben Nangombe.

The United States has committed more than US$20 million (approximately N$350 million) in support of the national COVID emergency response in an effort to reduce the impact of COVID-19 infection and to encourage Namibians to get vaccinated to protect themselves from hospitalization or death.

Specifically, as part of Project RISE, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) assisted the Department of Health and Human Services with analyzing social media content, developing a new COVID- 19 from the ministry’s website and to launch a misinformation social media campaign about COVID-19 vaccines. These activities complement those carried out by development partners such as the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), WHO and UNICEF.

At the launch event in Windhoek, the ministry also presented awards to journalists from various local media outlets as a token of appreciation for using their stories to promote facts and raise awareness about COVID-19 vaccines. Journalists have played an important role in articulating and projecting the truth and have made coverage of the pandemic a priority. “COVID vaccines work and are safe! They protect you and your loved ones,” Miller reiterated.

The United States has provided significant assistance to Namibia since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in February 2020, providing technical support across all pillars of laboratory response, infection control and prevention and to case management, and by making substantial donations in the form of donating and distributing thousands of doses of vaccines, providing intensive care beds, equipment such as centrifuges, biological safety cabinets, refrigerators, freezers, sequencing equipment, testing supplies and ancillary equipment, reagents and personal protective equipment, and funding oxygen generation plants for various public hospitals across the country. More than 4,000 people have died in Namibia from COVID-19.