Poverty & Healthcare

A wealthy country with many poor

One nation

One nationIn this video...Zoodes visits a family who live in the shanty town of One Nation on the outskirts of Windhoek.

Namibia is one of the wealthiest countries in Africa, but income is unevenly distributed. Around half the population lives below the poverty line.

An unfortunate legacy of Namibia’s colonial past can be seen in the income differences between blacks and whites. The white descendents of European or South African settlers have average incomes several times higher than those of black Namibians.

Since many Namibians live off extremely low wages or by subsistence farming, food is often inadequate for families.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 17.5% of children under five are underweight and 21.5% are stunted (2000-2009).


Health professionals

There are nearly 4 doctors and 28 nurses/midwives for every 10,000 people (WHO 2000-2010), though many are located in the towns and cities.

Namibia has a better health care system than many other African countries, with a higher number of medical professionals. Mobile clinics operate in rural locations, though the quality of healthcare varies.

Emphasis is placed on primary and preventative services. For example, around four-fifths of babies are immunised against measles and tetanus.

AIDS education project in NamibiaBut further changes are needed to prevent disease. While nine-tenths of people can access clean water, only around a third of Namibians have proper toilet facilities. Poor hygiene is therefore a threat to health, particularly for young children.

Battling HIV/AIDS

The HIV/AIDS epidemic is a serious problem in Namibia. By 2000, one in five adults was infected. Many people found it hard to understand they could become ill from something which can’t be seen. As a result of deaths from HIV/AIDS, 50,000 children (of the country’s 120,000 orphans) have lost either one or both parents to the disease. .

HIV/AIDS claims the lives of many children. According to the WHO, 20% of deaths among the under fives can be attributed to the disease.

In 2003, free antiretroviral treatment became available. This has helped lower the number of infections. In 2010, UNAIDS estimated around 160,000 Namibians aged 15 or over (around 13% of the adult population) were living with HIV.


In 2009, there were 82,000 cases of malaria (WHO).

Average life expectancy dropped from 65 years in 2000, to just 45 years in 2004. However, with more widespread treatment for HIV, life expectancy rose to 57 years in 2009.

Malaria is endemic as far south as Okahandja (65 km north of Windhoek), especially during the main rains from January-April.