Mapping Civil Society’s Response to HIV/AIDS in Namibia

Mapping Civil Society’s Response to HIV/AIDS in Namibia

Members of the Heteka Support group with the BLC-NANASO team after the CSO mapping and capacity assessment interview was completed. Photo credit: MSH

Namibia, with just 2.2 million people, has one of the highest AIDS prevalence rates in the world, at roughly 13.1 percent. The country’s small population is spread over a large geographic area, making the delivery of AIDS services a challenge especially in remote villages. Civil society organizations (CSOs) play a large role in the AIDS response here, but often have few staff, limited resources, and are not formally recognized by the Namibian government, which makes it harder for them to advocate for resources.

These on the ground organizations have local expertise and knowledge that is important to share and apply to Namibia’s HIV/AIDS response. In an effort to identify this expertise, Management Sciences for Health (MSH) is supporting a mapping and capacity assessment effort of Namibia’s CSO community. Through the USAID-funded Building Local Capacity for Delivery of HIV Services in Southern Africa Project (BLC), more than 172 community organizations were visited during a thirteen-week period by a team of workers from the Namibia Network of AIDS Service Organizations (NANASO) and the BLC Project.

New mapping project in Namibia

This mapping project is the first of its kind for CSOs in Namibia, and will help quantify the number of organizations working on the AIDS response, the types of services they are offering, and where organizations need additional training to improve their services and support.

During the exercise, many CSOs demonstrated passion and commitment to advancing the battle against HIV/AIDS. One of the organizations visited was the Heteka Support Group in Namibia’s Kavango region. The group, organized by people living with HIV/AIDS, was struggling with a lack of adequate nutrition, which posed further risks to the group members’ already fragile health.

To address this problem, the group embarked on a gardening project with three goals: to produce vegetables for their own consumption, to provide nutritional support to orphans and other needy community members, and to generate income for the support group by selling produce to the larger local community.

The garden project is flourishing. The Heteka Support Group is hoping to receive training and capacity building support from NANASO and the BLC Project to address other specific needs of the group.

By mapping out the many groups similar to the Heteka Support Group, as well as those targeting other groups, such as orphans and vulnerable children, the Building Local Capacity Project and NANASO will collect valuable data to help them understand the contributions these groups are making to the AIDS response.

Moving forward, this knowledge will be used to help these organizations connect with each other so they can exchange information and to help apply proven interventions and practices more widely.

BLC and NANASO will also offer these CSOs the support they need to develop into stronger, more formal organizations that are recognized by the Namibian government and are thus able to advocate for more resources and effective policies to fight the epidemic.

Elizabeth Walsh is the director of communications in the Center for Leadership & Management at MSH.