Namibia’s First School of Pharmacy: From Creation to Graduation
On April 24, 2015, the first class of students graduated from the B.Pharm program at the University of Namibia (UNAM)–the first and only pharmacy degree program in the country. With the help of the USAID-funded SIAPS program, the Namibian Ministry of Health and Human Services was able to conceive, establish, and encourage enrollment in the B.Pharm degree. The graduation of the country’s first locally educated pharmacists constitutes a major step forward in alleviating the country’s dire shortage of pharmacy staff and helping to meet the health care needs of the largely underserved Namibian population.
In 2003, the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Namibia peaked at a prevalence rate of 17%. Lowering the infection rate and expanding access to treatment for people living with HIV required a rapid nationwide scale-up of pharmaceutical services and delivery systems. Coupled with the country’s vastness and sparse population, efforts to expand availability of antiretroviral medicines (ARVs) placed added stress on an already overburdened workforce and health care system.
A key impediment to the scale-up of pharmaceutical services in Namibia was the shortage of skilled pharmaceutical personnel. Guided by the USAID-funded Rational Pharmaceutical Management Plus (RPM Plus) Program’s 2003 assessment of Namibia’s public pharmaceutical sector, the Ministry of Health and Social Services (MoHSS) realized that the scale-up of pharmaceutical services needed to be matched with adequately trained human resources. The long-term sustainability of pharmaceutical provision in Namibia required developing the capacity of local institutions to train pharmacists and pharmacist assistants.
A shortage of trained Namibian pharmacists
According to The World Health Report 2006, 288 pharmacists were registered in Namibia in 2004, translating to a density of just 14 pharmacists per 100,000 people. This immense gap in human resources was attributed to high vacancy rates, as well as limited pharmaceutical posts in the public sector, rapid workforce turnover and a reliance on foreign pharmacists. There was a severe deficiency in the availability of qualified and experienced Namibians holding pharmaceutical posts. Of the 48 established posts for pharmacists within the MoHSS, Namibians staffed only five of the 31 filled positions. Overall, foreigners on two- to three-year contracts held almost 90% of the filled pharmacist positions nationwide.
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