Zvandiri in Namibia: Growth and accreditation of the NATS Model

“Having been part of the Namibian Adolescent Treatment Supporters (NATS) programme from the start, I have witnessed young people get a voice, a space in the health care system. Many have made new friends and through that many questions have been brought to light. This does not mean all questions have been answered. Youth friendly spaces have been made a reality”.

These words from one NATS’ Supervisor at Katutura Hospital testify to the successful adoption of the Zvandiri Model by the Ministry of Health and Social Services of Namibia (MHSS). In May 2022, Namibia became the first country to be accredited by Zvandiri to independently implement the Zvandiri model. Zvandiri supports Governments to deliver holistic services to young people living with HIV at scale through trained peers who support them to survive and thrive. Zvandiri started in Zimbabwe and has been adopted and scaled up in 10 countries across the region, with Namibia being the first country to successfully achieve accreditation. Namibia contextualised the Model by renaming their trained peer counsellors ‘Namibian Adolescent Treatment Supporters’ — NATS.

The journey started in July 2019 with a learning visit to Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Health and Child Care and Zvandiri by the Namibian delegation, resulting in the signing of a memorandum of agreement and two-year technical assistance plan. This paved way for a pilot of the Zvandiri Model in two regions — Oshana and Khomas. The collaborative work began with a baseline assessment in November 2019, which sought to identify gaps in the provision of quality services for children, adolescents and young people living with HIV (CAYLHIV). During the first year, a total of 37 NATS from 11 health facilities were trained, mentored and successfully integrated into the Namibian health system. Although COVID-19 posed challenges for the provision of in-person Zvandiri technical assistance, the Zvandiri ECHO Hub enabled a virtual blended approach, ensuring continued technical assistance despite the pandemic. During COVID-19, the Hub also enabled us to support the scale up the Model to three new regions — Ohangwena, Kavango and Zambezi, resulting in 53 more NATS being trained and mentored. A total of 4,358 CAYPLHIV have been supported by NATS with peer-led information, counselling, support and linkages to services. The Namibian team have successfully cascaded training with virtual support from Zvandiri, providing care to the NATS, and mentorship to NATS and health care workers, as well as establishing and sustaining functional teen clubs for CAYPLHIV.

The endline assessment, conducted in May 2022, marked the end of the planned activities in the 2-year joint technical assistance plan. The endline assessment results were impressive, with an overall average score of 94%, far above the 75% threshold. With such success, accreditation was inevitable for the MHSS, with Namibia becoming the first country to attain such status. Zvandiri is immensely proud of this partnership with Namibia and thanks the MHSS and NATS for their commitment and cooperation throughout. Much appreciation to Centers for Disease Prevention and Control and the World Health Organization for financing the process and making the NATS programme a reality. We look forward to continued collaboration and sharing with the MHSS Namibia as the country continues to scale up the programme.

Read more about the work in Namibia here