Etegameno Rehab year long closure most worrying

Poor alcoholics and drug addicts in need of institutionalisation have nowhere to go.

10 February 2019 | Health

Catherine Sasman

Despite the pervasive problem of substance abuse in the country, the only state rehabilitation facility, Etegameno Rehabilitation and Resource Centre, has remained closed since April last year.

While Cabinet has been presented with a budget that could see the centre re-opening at the start of the new financial year – this April – the consensus is that it should never have been closed despite the crippling cash squeeze in the public sector.

“The closure leaves a huge void; there is an absolute need for it to be opened again. I cannot understand why government did not bother to keep it open,” said Tony Jarman, a recovering alcoholic.

Jarman, a former patient at Etegameno and sober for many years , is involved in a community support group, the Circle of Friends, that provides assistance to alcohol and drug addicts, and is fully conversant with the critical situation addicts can find themselves in.

“The need for a state-run facility cannot be overemphasised. Addicts usually do not have money and can hardly afford a private facility,” Jarman said.

The rehabilitation centre was closed because the Ministry of Health and Social Services (MHSS) could not afford to contract the re-quisite team of multi-disciplinary specialised professionals such as occupational therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists, and nurses.

“We cannot implement the rehabilitation programme without these professionals,” said deputy executive director of the ministry, Petronella Masabane, but acknow-ledged that the closure of Etegameno is “very serious”.

Masabane said a submission for a budget for staff at the centre has been submitted to Cabinet. She expressed hope that this will be approved, which could mean that the rehabilitation centre can once again open its doors. “As soon as the budget is approved we can create multi-disciplinary posts.”

During the year the centre has been closed, its remaining staff was engaged in community outreach programmes, social mobilisation and awareness-raising campaigns.

The Etegameno centre usually has an intake of 80 patients – five intakes over a five-week cycle – for alcohol and drug addicts. It does not cater for any other addictions such as gambling, sex or pornography.

Rene Adams, programme manager for the substance abuse, prevention, drug control and rehabilitation department of the MHSS, said people with substance abuse can approach social workers who are available at state hospitals.

Social workers provide therapy sessions, which often help people get sober or off drugs if they so decide.

Adams said not all alcohol and drug users need to be institutionalised; this is usually considered a last resort. “The best is if people can stop using substances within a community setup,” Adams said.

However, there are always people too sick, with too little insight in their own behaviour, in need of institutionalisation, as provided for in the Mental Health Act and the Liquor Act.

The impact

“The closure has a huge impact on people who cannot afford private treatment. It is precisely a lower socio-economic environment which can aggravate substance abuse. The fact that many people have nowhere else to go for help is causing great harm to the Namibian community,” said Charine Glen-Spyron, clinical psychologist and CEO of Bel Esprit, a private mental health clinic in Windhoek.

Namibia buckles under pervasive alcohol and drug abuse. A 2017 study ranked Namibia third in Africa.

Here, the substances of choice are alcohol, marijuana (dagga) and crack cocaine. This is aggravated by the relatively recent entrance of tik – or crystal methamphetamine – which is becoming “very common.” From all indications, tik first entered the country's borders from South Africa where it is devastating families. “This is the most dangerous drug in the world. It causes complete misery!” Jarman said.

Extremely worrying, he added is information - though difficult to confirm - that tik is now being manufactured in Walvis Bay.

Glen-Spyron says most worrying is the 80% to 90% comorbidity of substance abuse and mental illness, and the havoc it causes to families and communities.

Often misunderstood is the danger in the use of dagga – or other substances – which can trigger psychosis. This is why a professional multi-disciplinary team is required in running rehabilitation centres – to deal with detoxification as well as mental health issues.


There is a perception that the closure of Etegameno was because substance abuse rehabilitation is not considered a priority for the government. This, opined social worker and operations director at Bel Esprit Verona du Preez, is because substance abuse is often considered a self-inflicted disease.

However, she says that a WHO study has confirmed that substance abuse is related to the availability of such substances.

With shebeens mushrooming all over the country seemingly unchecked, it goes without saying that alcohol abuse – and its concomitant consequences - will escalate.

The WHO proposes a certain percentage of sin taxes to go towards treatment and rehabilitation, and Du Preez therefore proposes an amendment to the Liquor Act to make provision for that. “That is how you can guarantee that Etegameno's, community groups and foundations are open,” Du Preez suggested.

Similar News


Rare diseases in the spotlight

20 hours ago | Health

Yolanda NelA rare disease medical seminar takes place in Windhoek on 28 February to raise awareness amongst those affected by it.According to Bianca Özcan of...

Kits to help rapid Hepatitis E testing

2 months ago - 10 December 2018 | Health

As of 29 November, there have been a total of 34 Hepatitis E-related deaths in Namibia.In light of this, the Ministry of Health and Social...

Care for back and neck pain

2 months ago - 10 December 2018 | Health

Namibia Health Risk Solutions (NHRS) inaugurated its Back and Neck Rehabilitation Centre in the capital last week. The centre, which is the first of its...

Boost for public health

2 months ago - 03 December 2018 | Health

Jana-Marie Smith - A team of 28 Namibian medical specialists have completed a Namibia Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Programme (NamFELTP) to boost the country's...

52 suspected anthrax cases reported

2 months ago - 03 December 2018 | Health

At least 52 people who have handled or eaten dead goats are suspected to have been infected by anthrax in Namibia. The disease, which is...

Busy month for Diabetes Foundation

3 months ago - 12 November 2018 | Health

Diabetes affects more and more Namibians each year, yet few people are aware of the extent of the problem.In this vein, the Namibia Diabetes Lifestyle...

On-site clinic for staff

3 months ago - 22 October 2018 | Health

Bank Windhoek recently opened a visiting on-site clinic in the capital, providing primary healthcare services and wellness support services to employees, delivered by licensed service...

Honderde sien weer beter

4 months ago - 15 October 2018 | Health

Yolanda Nel – Daar het letterlik honderde mense Donderdag by die Windhoek sentrale hospitaal opgedaag ná oogkundiges kragte saamgesnoer het om oogtoetse teen N$20 aan...

Halfway on, world off mark in AIDS war

4 months ago - 15 October 2018 | Health

Moses Magadza - A senior United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS) official says although notable progress has been made against the disease, the...

A recipe for health

4 months ago - 15 October 2018 | Health

October is health and hygiene promotion month and on Thursday, the City of Windhoek (CoW) will reiterate the importance of washing your hands with soap...

Latest News

Rare diseases in the spotlight

20 hours ago | Health

Yolanda NelA rare disease medical seminar takes place in Windhoek on 28 February to raise awareness amongst those affected by it.According to Bianca Özcan of...

Vier fees ­vir droogtehulp

20 hours ago | Events

Yolanda Nel“Ons probeer om die mense wat elke dag kos op ons tafels sit, te help.”Juis daarom het 'n groep mense besluit om 'n insameling...

Pas op vir dié skelmstreke

20 hours ago | Crime

Yolanda Nel - Kleinsake-eienaars waarsku hul kliënte teen ’n foefie waarmee hulle gevra word om vir ’n diens of produk te betaal waarvan die entrepreneur...

Done and dusted

20 hours ago | People

Windhoek • Yolanda NelWhat began as maintaining his own guitar collection, has become both a passion and a hobby when he has a moment to...

Orchestras that play together, stay...

20 hours ago | Education

When more than 120 young musicians and their teachers rehearse for a week and let their musical skills run wild, the outcome is certainly something...

Maltas rock in the USA

20 hours ago | Education

The Maltas Club Namibia recently travelled to the USA to undertake an experiential learning trip. The purpose was threefold: to learn more about American culture,...

Big bucks for top students

20 hours ago | Education

Standard Bank Namibia handed over N$302 000 to the three best performing learners in each of the country's 14 regions who sat for last November's...

Body goals

20 hours ago | Columns

Adolf KaureThe Holy Bible says that our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit and that automatically gives everyone an obligation to take care...

Conservation snapshot

20 hours ago | Environment

On Tuesday (19 February), Peter Bridgeford launches the book Conservation Pioneers in Namibia and stories by Game Rangers at the Scientific Society.This book of personal...

Load More