08 December 2006
by Petronella Sibeene
Although volunteerism takes place worldwide, most Namibian men are of the perception that voluntary work in communities is for women, a new report has revealed.
Community volunteerism is an effort to provide much-needed support to community members, especially in the area of health and social services.
Diseases such as HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis have placed a high burden on communities, which has prompted many community members to involve themselves in voluntary work.
A report on "An Assessment of Community Volunteers and Community-Based Health Care Programmes" launched yesterday by the Minister of Health and Social Services, Richard Kamwi, shows that Namibia has a total of 4728 volunteers helping their communities at different levels, and 80% of this represents women participation.
The few men who participate in this field are members of the community committee, a potential reflection of a long-term belief that only males can be in decision-making positions.
Generally, there is a negative attitude towards volunteerism in the country.
According to the report, volunteers face numerous challenges, among them a lack of support from community members. Although there could be communication problems between people from different ethnic backgrounds, many people fail to understand the concept of volunteerism. "Some people do not want to talk to volunteers or listen to what they have to say. They refuse to cooperate and some look at volunteers as crazy people because they work for no pay", the report reveals.
Volunteers in all the regions feel frustrated due to inadequate funds and essential materials to facilitate their work. "A lack of food for their poor and hungry patients, soap and medication remain another constant headache for many involved in health-based care", the report says.
The Ministry of Health and Social Services yesterday opened a three-day conference under the theme "Valuing Namibian Volunteers' Contribution to Development", the main objective being how some of these challenges outlined in the report could be handled.
In his remarks at the conference, Kamwi stated that the African Region including Namibia is currently experiencing severe shortage in human resources especially in the provision of health and social services. This situation has made it even more important that community members involve themselves in helping to care for the sick.
"Our health services are generally perceived to be inaccessible by many people, due to lack of infrastructure, transport and human resources the social problems experienced need to be solved by and within our communities", the minister acknowledged.
He recognized progress that has been made through the efforts of volunteers and civil society organizations, adding that these people play a major role in educating, caring and providing social and emotional support to community members who are not able to help themselves.
Kamwi said it is important to recognize that home-based care today is not only directed at HIV-related conditions, but also to many other health and social issues facing many communities.
He called on all Namibians from the public and private and civil society sectors to devise strategies that will strengthen the needed efforts of volunteers.