German organisations call for urgent aid to Namibia over COVID-19 pandemic

The Corona pandemic is particularly deadly in Namibia. Recalling Germany’s colonial past, aid organisations and celebrities are sounding the alarm and calling on the German government to send vaccine to the African country.

More than 250 organisations and individuals are calling on the German government to provide rapid and comprehensive aid to Namibia to enable the African country to effectively tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

Namibia is experiencing a humanitarian catastrophe due to a rapid spread of the infectious disease, researchers, politicians and various Africa initiatives wrote in a letter published on Thursday (8 July). With 15 deaths per million inhabitants, Namibia has a mortality rate five times higher than neighbouring South Africa, which is also hard hit by the global health crisis.

“Germany bears a special historical and political responsibility towards Namibia because of its colonial past,” the letter addressed to Chancellor Angela Merkel, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and Development Minister Gerd Müller states. The German government’s commitment to this, reaffirmed as recently as May, must now be followed by immediate and non-bureaucratic action.

Namibia must be supported immediately with urgently needed medical supplies as well as vaccines and, if necessary, specialised personnel. The German government recognised the German colonial crimes in present-day Namibia as genocide in May and promised German aid worth 1.1 billion euros in three decades. Experts call the agreement an embarrassing act and an insult.

Among others, the former Development Minister, Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, the Special Representative of the Federal Government for the Negotiations with Namibia, Ruprecht Polenz, the human rights lawyer Wolfgang Kaleck, as well as numerous Africa researchers signed the letter. Among the signatory organisations are several local postcolonial initiatives, the alliance “Völkermord verjährt nicht” and the German Africa Society.

Meanwhile, Michelle Müntefering, Minister of State at the Federal Foreign Office, said that a first shipment of protective equipment and hospital beds had been brought to the Namibian capital Windhoek on Thursday. Further aid, on the other hand, only held out the prospect: in the coming days and weeks, medical material worth around eleven million euros was to be provided, including around 50 respirators.

With regard to the vaccine, she said, “we are looking into how we can also support Namibia in this as quickly as possible”. She pointed out that Germany was supporting the international vaccine platform Covax, which organises the supply of vaccines to poorer countries, with 1.6 billion euros and would also provide at least 30 million vaccine doses to countries with great need, also mainly through Covax.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) Regional Director Matshidiso Moeti told a video conference in Brazzaville on Thursday that the coronavirus pandemic is spreading faster and faster in Africa. The continent had just experienced the week with the most new Covid-19 cases, he said, and it was getting worse. Last week, health authorities in African countries recorded more than 251,000 new Covid-19 infections. The figure is 20 per cent higher than the previous week. The number of cases is now doubling every 18 days, the Regional Director noted.

According to the data, 50 million doses have been vaccinated in Africa so far. However, this is only 1.6 percent of all vaccine doses administered globally. The WHO expects larger vaccine shipments to Africa in July and August.

Sola Jolaoso

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