Naankuse Lifeline Clinic | Improving Lives

So when is a Giraffe, a Giraffe?
November 10, 2014
November 14, 2014

The Naankuse Lifeline clinic is dedicated to the health and welfare of the San Bushman community. The San are considered to be the oldest culture in the world and are traditionally hunter gatherers. They have been forced from their original lands, which are increasingly being used for grazing cattle, leaving the San unable to survive in their traditional lifestyle. Bushman are treated as third class citizens and live in extreme poverty.

N/a’an ku sê is committed to improving the lives of the San community through education, healthcare and better living conditions. Our aim is to give the next generation of this poverty stricken community the education, healthcare and help they need to survive and build a brighter, healthier future. – See more at

Bushmen children playing. Photo - Naankuse Lifeline Clinic

Bushmen children playing. Photo – Naankuse Lifeline Clinic

In the 21st century, quality of life and the standard of living is partly measured by access to quality health care. For many, going to the doctor when you feel unwell or having easy access to an emergency room at a clean, easily accessible hospital, is a fact of life that is taken for granted.

But, equal access to quality health care is not a reality, it is a privilege for a small percentage of humans. The same applies to Namibia.

Poverty is rife in the Bushmen community - and health care access remains a challenge.

Poverty is rife in the Bushmen community – and health care access remains a challenge.

For a pair of Namibians, Dr Rudie van Vuuren and his wife Marlice, well-known as the founders of the Naankuse Foundation, their lives were dramatically changed in 2003 after the death of a San baby. They felt strongly that his death was due to “severe medical negligence” and proper health care would have saved him.

With close ties to the Bushmen community, Marlice, who speaks the language, urged her husband and others, to start a health clinic with the aim of providing critical health care to a community in critical need of such facilities.

Marlice and Rudi van Vuuren with their children.

Marlice and Rudie van Vuuren with their children.

The Naankuse Lifeline blog states:“Discrimination, social stigmatisation and dependency prejudice make it extremely difficult for this community (San Bushmen) to elevate themselves out of poverty and can create a cycle of marginalisation across generations”.

Dr Sharon Smart - Naankuse Lifeline clinic doctor.

Naankuse Lifeline clinic doctor

The van Vuurens joined together with their long time pharmacist friend Chris Heunis and decided to act. Chris donated medicine while Rudie started carrying out informal clinics. It soon became clear that the need was far greater and they needed a permanent facility to run their clinics.

From it’s initial monthly outreach programme, the clinic has established a permanent base at Epukiro Pos 3, in Omaheke. The doctors and nurses conduct regular trips to six isolated locations, in order to ensure that the community in the surrounding areas also receive adequate medical attention.

Naankuse Lifeline clinic - providing critical health care.

Naankuse Lifeline clinic – providing critical health care.

Rudie explained this week that since 2003, the clinic and its outreach programme have slowly but surely gained the trust of the community. He said, from the beginning “the main thing was to first establish trust”, because without that connection, the clinic would not be able to fulfill its mandate. Moreover, the clinic’s activities are not restricted to practical health care, but also to education on health care. Regular community talks are held, during which issues such as hygiene, TB awareness and other issues are raised.

The clinic’s expansion was also the building blocks for the establishment of the Naankuse Foundation, including its wildlife sanctuary, and today offers employment to around 120 people, Rudie said.

The next step for the clinic, is to take the operation “airborne”, flying medical staff to even more remote areas, and providing monthly Lifeline clinics to patients in difficult to reach communities.

Sponsorships make all the difference: Rainwater harvesting helps the clinic to put money into medical needs, an ambulance that can go where it is needed - rural, isolated villages.

Sponsorships make all the difference: Rainwater harvesting helps the clinic to put money into medical needs, an ambulance that can go where it is needed – rural, isolated villages.

Since its small beginnings, the clinic has thrived, and with the assistance of strategic sponsorships and donors, the doctors and nurses continue to provide much needed health care in the region.

This year, the clinic has treated approximately 2 000 patients, of which 40% were children. Moreover, the outreach programme has provided another 2 000 patients with health care.

Gobabis Toyota sponsored a much needed vehicle to the Lifeline clinic.

Gobabis Toyota sponsored a much needed vehicle to the Lifeline clinic.

The outreach programme was boosted with the help of sponsors this year, who provided an all terrain vehicle and camping gear, easing the outdoors experience for the doctors and nurses when they are in the field. Rudie said that such donations are critical and help to improve the conditions for medical staff, ensuring their commitment to the programme.

A Toyotal Hilux bakkie was sponsored by Gobabis Toyota, and Cymot provided strategic support to the Lifeline clinic’s field work and TB research projects, with the donation of a 40 litre Engel fridge that was fitted into the all-terrain Ambulance. They also donated six high-quality sleeping bags.

Moreover, 2014 has proved to be a year of generous, and strategic donations, which will assist the smooth and cost effective running of the clinic.

Solar panels sponsored by Jan D'hont and Nele Degraeowe from Belgium, through Heliostream.

Solar panels sponsored by Jan D’hont and Nele Degraeowe from Belgium, through Heliostream.


Perfectly located for solar energy, Jan D’hont and his wife, Nele Degraeowe, from Belgium, visited the clinic this year. Through their company Heliostream, the Lifeline clinic was equipped with a solar system and backup generator – a donation that will see more donor funds being used for health care provision, rather than utility bills.

Installing the solar panels.

Installing the solar panels.


Lifeline Clinic is in the northern part of the Kalahari Desert. Due to its isolation, vegetables are grown to feed volunteers, and consumption of water (for plants, or to quench rhirst0 can mean up to 1 000 liters a day.

Installing the water tanks.

Installing the water tanks.

Previously, the water supply from the Regional Council was “erratic”, and the quality of water not always impeccable.

As such, the news that Pieter van Vuuren and the McMinnville Breakfast Rotary Club from Tennessee in USA had agreed to sponsor a rain water collection system, was met with great enthusiasm.

With nearly 400 meter square of roof space even our meagre rainfall is enough to provide 40,000 litres and if the garden is watered with  the garden with the village supply this will stretch a reasonable time after the 4-5 months of intermittent thunder storms during the rainy season. We think a thunder storm will provide 3-7,000 thousand litres!

The water tanks

The water tanks

Brand van Zyl from Urban Green helped Naankuse develop a plan for the collection, filtration, power outage risk management and storage and Arno Hayes from Quartz Construction did a great job implementing it.


Meet the Team at Naankuse Lifeline Clinic

What They Do




Travel News Namibia
Travel News Namibia
Travel News Namibia is a high-quality glossy Namibia travel and lifestyle magazine tasked with promoting Namibia to the world. With riveting stories, first-hand encounters and magnificent photographs showcasing tourism, travel, nature, adventure and conservation, TNN is the ultimate and most comprehensive guide to exploring Namibia. Travel News Namibia is published in five different editions per year. These include four English- language editions and one German. Travel News Namibia is for sale in Namibia and South Africa.

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