University of Namibia (UNAM) produces local solution in response to COVID-19

The wise words of Andrea Randall didn’t stand in vain when she said, "all heroes and heroines don’t wear capes".

These words ring true through the innovative collaboration of the University of Namibia's (UNAM) Faculty of Science, School of Pharmacy, Namibia Breweries Limited (NBL) as well as other entities.  These are the local heroes and heroines who came up with a local handwashing solution in light of the global health pandemic. UNAM initially began to catalyze an ethanol-based sanitizer after positive confirmed cases of COVID-19 were announced.

The outbreak of the pandemic consequently created a dire shortage of products in the country as many flocked out to purchase sanitization products that were in high demand. The University noticed a plunge in the lack of supplies including hand sanitizers and which prompted the fluctuation in the costs of sanitization products locally.

The sole intention of the University is to produce an affordable and accessible product to the public of Namibia, especially to remote and vulnerable communities.

After the processing procedures, four samples were collected and tested for approval by The Namibia Standards Institute (NSI). Thereafter, a Certificate of Analysis was issued and granted on April 03, 2020 confirming that the sanitizers manufactured by UNAM are safe for use on human skin and meet the World Health Organization’s (WHO's) recommended chemical content levels to fight COVID-19.

As a result of an increased demand for alcohol-based hand sanitizer due to the COVID-19 pandemic, UNAM’s sanitizer production supply chain was initially exclusively for the staff and the 30 000 - student community of the institution.

The revelation of the hand sanitizer sparked interests in public and private sectors which resulted in a mass production through its venture management wing, INCEPTUS Holdings Pty. As stocks of ethanol ran low, Namibia Breweries Limited availed their expertise and are working closely with UNAM scientists to come up with a feasible solution for ethanol supply. 

Experts maintain that keeping hands clean is one of the easiest and the best ways to prevent the transmission of  COVID-19, in addition to social distancing. But for Namibia, an arid country, water supply is limited, and hand sanitizers are a valuable substitute measure that can help prevent infection.

The UNAM Vice Chancellor, Professor Kenneth Matengu appeals to local commercial entities and businesses to operate on the same principle.

He states that this should not be the time for profiteering, but a time for saving lives in the midst of the virus.

It is with no doubt that this local initiative is one that will help Namibians put into practice the advice by WHO advocating for handwashing as a means of preventing the spread of COVID-19. Washing hands with soap and water or by using an alcohol based hand rub, is one of the most important preventative measures, along with not touching your face, mouth and nose and practicing social distancing. 

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