Villagers at Onyuva, in a remote area of Kaokoland in the Kunene Region, usually take two weeks to walk an amazing distance of 250 kilometres through rugged, hilly terrain to access clinics in Opuwo. Public transport to and from Onyuva is unbelievably scarce and the fact that these people are able to walk such long distances, even when they are sick, shows their resilience and high levels of endurance.

But help could be on the way for these mountain-dwelling villagers, who rely on cattle for their livelihoods, if the minister of health Dr Bernard Haufiku pushes through his directive to open a new clinic for them. Thanks to sponsorship from American filmmakers drawn to the area by its breathtaking scenery, they could soon have an own clinic by October this year, at the latest. The new clinic is situated some 250 kilometres north-west of Opuwo. It has never been operational since it was built in 2009.

Haufiku visited the clinic last month and gave the director of health in the Kunene Region six months to get the clinic to open its doors to the public. Haufiku underscored the high need for health services in Onyuva because people have to walk 250 km to Opuwo to access health care services, a distance which usually takes two weeks. “It’s not a known clinic and it is quite a terrain to get there. The clinic is very beautifully constructed, painted, paved and there is a house for nurses,” stated Haufiku in a recent interview.

The minister and his delegation could, however not go inside the clinic, as there was a note preventing people from entering unless permission is sought from the contractor. The clinic was built with sponsorship from American filmmakers, who were shooting a documentary in the area and saw the need for a clinic there, related Haufiku. However, due to bureaucracy, they secured their own contractor as well as a clinic template without consulting the Ministry of Works and Transport. It, however, later emerged that there were some minor faults in the construction of the clinic and hence it could not operate.

“The Ministry of Works was not aware that there was a clinic built there,” said Haufiku. When engineers and quantity surveyors from the Ministry of Works and Transport as well as the Ministry of Health and Social Services were sent to assess the building they found some faults, he said. “The door was apparently a steel door, which is not compatible with the clinic,” explained the minister. The Ministry of Health and Social Services is compiling a report detailing what needs to be fixed, after which the contractor will make the necessary changes.

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