State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2013 - Case study: Innovative mobile tuberculosis treatment reaches Namibia's nomadic San community

San are the only ethnic group in Namibia whose health and economic status have declined since independence. San life expectancy is 22 per cent below the national average. Namibia has one of the highest tuberculosis rates in the world. In parts of Tsumkwe where San live, rates of more than 1,500 tuberculosis cases per 100,000 people were recorded in 2004, which is almost 50 per cent higher than the national prevalence rate for the same period.[7]

The San region of Tsumkwe has high levels of multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis because they live in remote places and often move their homes and go on long hunting expeditions, which means they do not finish courses of medicine. Unwittingly, they therefore contribute to one of the chief causes of drug-resistant illnesses. However, the San, with the help of two NGOs, devised a health programme that takes into account their lifestyle. Family members are trained to administer drugs and a community-based education programme taught San about tuberculosis, required drugs, how to read and record treatment cards and how to collect medical samples. As a result, recent data indicates a decrease in multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis cases in Tsumkwe.[8]


7. Open Society Foundation and Equitas, 'Health and human rights in minority communities: the Roma and San', in Health and Human Rights: A Resource Guide, retrieved June 2013:; see also Trading Economics, 'Incidence of tuberculosis in Namibia', retrieved June 2013:….

8. Thomson Reuters Foundation, 'We must not let discrimination and a lack of creativity prevent the eradication of TB', 19 October 2012, retrieved June 2013:…; Health Poverty Action, 'The San people raise awareness of tuberculosis ahead of World TB Day', 25 March 2013, retrieved June 2013,…

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