19 Apr 2008

Namibia – Walvis Bay

Well I have spent the last few days in Walvis Bay, Namibia. I arrived on Sunday the 13th April 2007 and I am now leaving on the 17th. (Currently at the Walvis Bay International Airport)

It has been a truly remarkable past few days. Right from the moment I arrived in this rather quaint little place. As we landed at the airport I could not stop thinking how much the scenery around the area reminded me of a movie I had watched not that long again called “Flight of the Phoenix” In the movie you see a story of a plane of oil drillers whose plan crash in the desert. Unknown to me at the time the actual desert they filmed in was the “Namib Desert” I only found this out when I passed a comment to the car rental lady that the airport reminded me of something out of that movie. Her dad had worked on the movie when it was made here. In the movie we are led to believe that it is the Mongolian desert but as we now know it was in Namibia.

It is quite literally wall to wall sand here.

So what have I been doing in this picturesque country? Well I have been here for the past 4 days aiding in running a KABP (Knowledge, Attitude, Belief and Practice) survey to identify exactly where the hot spot of commercial sex workers and truckers operate in. A few “Hot Spots” had been identified to us but we needed to narrow this down to one ideal location. Not quite as easy as it sounds. One would think look and see where the sex workers hang out and see where the truckers hang out. Wish it was that easy.

The survey is a questionnaire that we gave out to a team of 10 volunteers to go and interview our target group ( Commercial Sex Workers and Truck Drivers and Assistance) Our questionnaire had 7 section in it.

Section 1 – Socio-demographic information and employment (Gender, age and type of work etc)

Section 2 – Drivers and assistance – nature of work (How long they work how often they frequent the area and stay etc. General info on heath care and services are also collected at this point. )

Section 3- Sex workers – nature of work (How many working in the area how often they are working etc)

Section 4 – Risk and risk reduction (How aware they are of STI and HIV/AIDS and its associated risk and risk of infection to them self and others. Also we can ascertain how promiscuous people are in the area)

Section 5 – HIV/AIDS knowledge and attitudes (Questions on what they know about HIV/AIDS and how to seek information and there attitudes towards HIV/AIDS (have they been tested etc))

Section 6 – Condoms (do they know where to get them and how to use them?)

Section 7 – STIs (do they know how to identify an STI and where do they go to get treatment)

We did find out where the sex workers hang out and we were able to talk to them about what they were doing and get a good idea of there HIV awareness. We also found out that predominantly there cliental were more often than not seafarers than truckers. One of the reasons for this is they pay better. Truckers in the area don’t really park up for any great length of time. The reasons for this were not very clear. In most cases it was they have a quick turn around of off loading and loading. So it is going to be hard for us to justify a wellness centre to facilitate the truckers and the commercial sex workers in the area.

On the flip side I have been able to meet some really remarkable people during my stay here. The staff and volunteers at the “New Start” “Walvis Bay Multi Purpose Centre” have been incredibly hospitable to me. The volunteers who have helped collect the data from the survey have been incredible. All really eager to help out and get as much info that they could. They arraigned appointments with the girls so that they could sit down in a place they felt comfortable with to conduct the interviews. They asked additional questions of the drivers and the girls in order to try and shed some more light on where activities were happening. They were just so helpful. A great pleasure to work with. Every one we spoke to understood the importance of a wellness centre in the area and were willing to work with us to provide the data we required. Right down to the pub owner where the girls worked out of.

Some of the things that really struck me about Walvis Bay is the personal pride and sense of community in the area. I guess living in a harsh environment like a dessert you have to stick together at all times in order to survive. I think people here also realise that they live in such a harsh environment and they have risen about this to have a strong community and this is something to be proud of.

I have been really lucky to be given this opportunity to see Namibia from this perspective.

I have taken loads of photos of this remarkable place. And before any one comments I was here on work – honest! click here to see the photos from Namibia.

Some things I can recommend to anyone wanted to visit.

DO! Don’t just think about it just do it! You will not be disappointed.

I stayed in a fab place in Swakopmund, The Beach Lodge Hotel, some 35 – 40km away from the airport. The drive out there is well worth the distance. Walvis is very commercial so Swakop is where the holiday people tend to go. Loads of fab hotels and places to go. About half way between Swakop and Walvis there is a Dune Quad centre, Dare Devil Adventures. I had to pay a visit there as it was highly recommended. There are quite a few places that offer Dune Quad biking so just take your pick. The one just as you come into Swakop has had cliental of such likes of Brad Pit and Angelina Jolene.

I was lucky to get to go out as it was just myself and the guide. I think this made it extra special as the guide really went out of his way for me to show me some of the awesome wild life that resides in this barren hostile environment. Jackals, Chameleon and sand diving lizards to name a few of the inhabitants of the Namib Desert.

You will see from the photos I had an awesome time out there and yes I did do work out there too and important work at that. (Click on link to see photos from Namibia)

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