Middle-income status thorn in Covid-19 fight

THE classification of Namibia as an upper-middle-income country continues to haunt our developmental efforts, this time rearing its ugly head in our fight to access Covid-19 vaccines pivotal for positive growth.

This week President Hage Geingob reiterated that this World Bank status has not only constrained Namibia in accessing financing needed to fight Covid-19 but has also made acquiring vaccines an expensive undertaking.

For this reason, it is not a surprise that the total proposed budget for Namibia Deployment and Vaccination Plan for Covid-19 vaccines is N3 068 783.

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84, of which N4 800 000 is for actual procurement of the vaccines.

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This large sum of money will only allow Namibia to procure vaccines that will cover at most, 60 percent vaccination coverage.

The upper-middle-income status categorises countries with a gross national income (GNI) per capita of US$4 046 (N$68 700) to US$12 535 (N$213 000).

In the past, Geingob has called for reclassification saying that the current upper-middle-income status presents challenges with regards to mobilising resources to finance development goals. This indeed includes health grants from development organisations from abroad. It is also possible that donations for doses of Covid-19 vaccines from countries that have managed to manufacture them may be limited to Namibia owing to this specific classification.

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In essence, we have learnt that the Republic of China has pledged to donate only 100 000 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine while the Republic of India has pledged to donate 30 000 doses of the vaccine from the Serum Institute of India.

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“The World Bank formula, which divides our GDP by our small population, thereby deriving a high per capita income, places us at a disadvantage as this classification fails to account for historic injustices that have resulted in highly skewed income distribution,” Geingob said late last year irked by how the classification has for years slowed Namibia’s quest for sustainable growth and further denies Namibia access to assistance that is proportionate to her needs.

With these fresh lessons we are learning of the detrimental effects of this classification on the health delivery system. We plead with the international community to stop classifying this country as an upper-middle-income country which could rescue us from the ‘middle-income trap’ that we find ourselves in.

Despite the challenges that the classification has placed on our national Covid-19 response, we applaud the health ministry on the progress it has made towards the looming vaccination programme which has managed to procure some through the pooled procurement mechanisms such as the COVAX Facility and the Africa Medicines Supply Platform (AMSP) of the African Union.

We note with pride that the health authorities have submitted the national Covid-19 deployment and vaccination plan for international scrutiny and review by the World Health Organisation in which WHO found Namibia’s template to be among the best in the world and recommend it as a template to countries that have not yet completed their deployment and vaccination plans.