Tonata Celebrates a Major Milestone in Ondjungulume Village
Judith Uushona of Tonata dances with the procession of Yambidhidha CAG
to welcome the arrival of dignitaries at the milestone celebration
Tonata recently hosted a celebration for achieving a major milestone in it’s Community Adherence Group project, attended by a high level delegation including the Office of the Governor of Omusati, the Office of the Executive Director of the Ministry of Health and Social Services, the Director of Omusati Regional Health Directorate, the Honorable Councilor of Otamanzi Consitutency, and representatives from the Uukwambi Traditional Authority, the Ambassador of the United States for Namibia, and representatives from the United States Agency for International Development. The event was held in Ondjungulume village in Onkani, Omusati region, and was hosted by Yambidhidha Community Adherence Group.
The centerpiece of this gathering of eminent persons was the achievement of the Community Adherence Group project, a joint program between the Ministry of Health and Social Services, the United States, and Tonata PLHIV Network. To date, over 3000 community members have joined the program, an immense increase from 205 people in the program last year. The aim of this project is to promote adherence and retention of patients on HIV. It is one thing for a person to begin taking their medication, it is another for them to continue taking their medication correctly, every day, for the years to come, and that is exactly what will be required for Namibia to eliminate HIV as a public health threat. How it works is that HIV positive community members organize themselves into self-governing groups, and they elect two people, who will take turns going to the clinic and pick up their ART medication for the entire group when it is time for the members to refill their medication. Once that person returns to the community, the group assembles and each person’s medicine is distributed. This process saves the individuals time and money, and makes it so they can go about their necessary tasks without the interruption of hours and days spent transiting to clinics and waiting in queues. By decreasing the burden of clinic visits on patients, and increasing the support they receive from one another, CAG members are thus empowered to remain stable on their treatment, keeping themselves strong and healthy for the long term.
This Community Adherence Group project is at the heart of Namibia’s Differentiated Service Delivery model, which seeks to make high quality medical services available even to our most remote communities. This project is being undertaken by the Ministry of Health and Social Services, which has begun forming groups in various districts throughout the country. Because of Namibia’s strong partnership with the United States in addressing the HIV epidemic, the United States, through its funding organizations PEPFAR and USAID, has partnered with the Ministry in this project to fast track the expansion of the program. To that end, USAID is providing funding to Tonata to scale up the development of the CAG project, taking advantage of Tonata’s already well established network of HIV support groups.
US Ambassador to Namibia Lisa Johnson offers congratulations on the successful
partnership between the United States and Namibia in facing the HIV epidemic
Tonata, which is a grass roots Namibian organization founded in 2006 to encourage and empower people living with HIV, has worked diligently since 2018 to form, train, and empower these new Community Adherence Group, and the impact is profound. During the Milestone Celebration, the prestigious delegates had the opportunity to witness the distribution of medication to the group members, and ask questions. Confident, well-trained, and knowledgeable, group leader Hendrina Ishulu answered various questions about the various procedures they follow and the tools they use to make sure everyone receives their correct medication. She shared that while previously, if she was able to get a ride, it may only take her a few hours to go to the clinic to get her medication, but that rides were few to the clinic, and with no transport one would have no choice but to foot, taking her six hours round trip of just travel time, not including time spent at the queue.
The celebration included remarks from the various dignitaries present. Ambassador Lisa Johnson applauded the Ministry of Health and Social Services on its accomplishment working with Tonata to cultivate those groups, as well as the community members themselves for their courage and leadership in forming the Community Adherence Group, and that the United States would continue in its partnership with Namibia to reach Namibia’s Vision 2030 of an AIDS free generation. In Tonata’s discussion with the Honorable Governor Eriginus Endjala preceding the event, he expressed his enthusiasm for the CAG project, and he is passionate about ensuring that services filter down to the grass roots of Namibian society. The Executive Director of Ministry of Health and Social Services Mr. Benetus Nangombe , who’s remarks were read by Mr. Alfons Amoomo, Director of Omusati Regional Health Directorate, highlighted the progress Namibia has made in the Differentiated Service Delivery model. The celebration was closed by a vote of thanks from Chief Herman Iipumbu, read by the son of the headman of Ondjungulume village, Mr. Levy Nekwaya, on behalf of his father, who expressed gratitude for all the parties involved, the Ministry of Health, the United States, Tonata, for their efforts on the behalf of the health of the people.
US Ambassador to Namibia Lisa Johnson sits with the group
as they distribute ART under the tree in their village
This CAG program is not some private project, but it is part and parcel of Nambia’s Strategic Operational Plan regarding HIV response. We at Tonata are proud to be making such a tangible contribution to achieving Namibia’s development goals. With our partnerships with the Ministry of Health and Social Services and USAID, our efforts are bearing fruit, and the impact our work is having on local communities brings us great joy. With 322 groups formed in over 300 different communities throughout 8 districts between Omusati and Kavango East, we are given new energy for the work ahead. We are piloting new strategies to accelerate our success, and we aim to enroll over 35000 new people in the next 3 years. . Tonata, working together the Ministry of Health and Social Services, USAID, and community members, will continue to be on the frontlines of the effort to achieve epidemic control of HIV in Namibia.