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We’ll get through this if we support one another

— Dr. Theo-Ben Kandetu (Namibia)
19 May 2020
Dr. Theo-Ben Kandetu (Namibia)
Dr. Theo-Ben Kandetu (Namibia)

Tell us a bit about yourself?

My name is Dr. Theo-Ben Kandetu and I’m 31 years old. I was born and raised in Windhoek, the capital city of Namibia. I’m the Senior Medical Officer in the Department of Internal Medicine (Nephrology) at Windhoek Central Hospital, the national referral hospital in Namibia.

Dr. Theo-Ben Kandetu (Namibia)
Dr. Theo-Ben Kandetu (Namibia)

How long have you been working as a healthcare worker? What made you choose a career in healthcare? Any fears or regrets?

I’ve been working as a healthcare worker for five years now. For me, it is a “calling”. I had always wanted to be a doctor since adolescence. What drew me to medicine is being able to intervene and help an ill person get back to full health. Studying biology in high school, especially how the human body functions, intensified my fascination to pursue medicine.

I am blessed to have found healthcare as my calling in life and I can honestly say I have no regrets. However, ask me that same question at 2.00 am during a 24-hour shift in the emergency centre, and my answer will probably be different. That is to say there are good days and bad days, like any other profession.

Any fears?

Absolutely! Like other medics, the fear of an error in clinical judgement, or an omission on the prescription chart. But this fear is also what drives me to always be vigilant on the job, especially during those late-night shifts.

How are you helping fight COVID-19 in your country? How has your work changed since COVID-19 broke out?

Due to my experience in internal medicine and as the head of the Infection Prevention and Control team at my hospital, I was seconded to the National COVID-19 Task Force in Namibia.

Since COVID-19 reached Namibia, my day-to-day schedule has changed significantly from seeing patients at hospital level, to being responsible for the entire country’s preparedness and response. My team is specifically responsible for case management of confirmed COVID-19 patients. This involves setting up national policies for case management, coordinating the case management response team efforts throughout the whole country, and personally, following up on management of all confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country.

What affects you most in this COVID-19 situation? What keeps you going? How are you coping?

What I find really de-motivating in the fight against COVID-19 in my country is the misinformation and fake news circulating on social media and other platforms. This probably stems from the fact that a lot about this novel (new) coronavirus is still unknown. Unfortunately, it seems to be human nature to “fill in the blanks” if people don’t get the information or answers they are looking for, whether their intentions are nefarious or not. The frustrating part about all of this misinformation is that it really undermines the efforts and hard work of the COVID-19 preparedness and response teams as it leads to public distrust.

What keeps me going is the overwhelming love and support of my family. Due to my hectic work schedule, I often skip meals. My family has made sure that I am well taken care of and equipped to continue the fight against COVID-19 when I leave home every morning.

Dr. Theo-Ben Kandetu (Namibia)
Dr. Theo-Ben Kandetu (Namibia)

What strategy, in your view, has worked well in this fight and what has not? What should be done to win the war against COVID-19?

For Namibia specifically, I think our quick response in closing our ports of entry to international travelers allowed us to contain the transmission of COVID-19. This, coupled with our aggressive mitigation measures in disease surveillance, contact tracing and quarantine/isolation is what has led to our success in curbing the spread of the disease.

Namibia is also reported to be the second least densely populated country in the world (about 3 people per square kilometre), a fact that certainly counts in our favour considering how this virus is transmitted.

On how to beat COVID-19?

In my opinion, the way to win this war is multi-sectoral collaboration. All hands must be on deck. It is crucial for experts from all sectors to get involved in finding solutions specific to their countries. Each country is in its own stage in the COVID-19 pandemic, so country A’s solutions might not necessarily apply to Country B. What is important in my view is for governments to provide platforms to their experts to deliberate on possible solutions to problems. Additionally, it is paramount for countries to also involve international authorities like WHO, CDC and Africa CDC in the deliberation process. Namibia has done very well in the way of multi-sectoral collaboration.

What is your message to people in your country, and to fellow Africans in general, at this time of COVID-19?

Although we live in very uncertain times, let us not forget our humanity. Let us not stigmatize those who have COVID-19, or see them as the enemy. We will get through this if we band together and support one another.