Charities Operating in Botswana
Botswana, located in the center of Southern Africa, has one of the world’s fastest-growing economies. This is mainly due to the country’s careful economic management, diamond wealth and its multi-party democratic government. As of 2021, Botswana has a population of approximately 2.4 million. The country is currently an upper-middle-income country with the potential to become a high-income country by 2036. However, Botswana is facing some challenges. Botswana’s reliance on diamonds makes the country vulnerable to external shocks, which the COVID-19 pandemic made clear when the economy decreased by 8.7% in 2020, according to the World Bank. Furthermore, while Botswana prioritizes education and provides nearly free primary education universally, in 2021, the unemployment rate in Botswana was at 26%.

The World Bank estimates that children in Botswana spend 8.1 years in school, from age 4 to 18, but the number decreases to 5.1 years when factoring in how much time children spend actually learning. This certainly contributes to adults being unable to attain jobs that require certain skills or levels of education. Although progress needs to occur, there are numerous charities in Botswana administering aid. Here are five charities operating in Botswana.

1. Camphill Community Trust

Camphill Community Trust was once a small school, but it currently has more than 100 centers in 18 countries. It supports individuals with learning difficulties and disabilities from early childhood to adulthood. It provides education, a sense of community, and work experience. Camphill Community Trust offers Rankodimo Kindergarten, which is pre-primary learning for 20 children ages 3-5, as well as Rankoromane School for 60 children ages 5-14. Finally, there is Motse Wa Badiri Training which offers quality education, training and jobs for those with disabilities.

It offers a four-year learning program for those who are 14 years or older called The Integrated Learning for Living and Work Programme (ILLWP). It is available to give students an expansive basis of knowledge and skills. There are 96 students enrolled currently. Overall, Camphill Community Trust is one of the charities in Botswana offering beneficial learning and work experience to children and young adults, helping their chance to become successful adults.

2. SOS Children’s Villages

Botswana is one of the top four countries that HIV and AIDS impact the most. HIV and AIDS have caused suffering for those afflicted and their families and it has negatively impacted Botswana’s economy as it commonly affects working adults. This hurts households financially and decreases the workforce in Botswana. There are around 160,000 children lacking parental care and among them, 120,000 lost that care because of AIDS. When the children’s parents are ill, they have to focus on working to provide for themselves instead of receiving an education. With this in mind, SOS Children’s Villages have been busy making sure that families have basics such as health care, education and counseling available to them.

The organization has been giving support and needed services to more than 130 territories and has helped 4 million children by strengthening family ties and other forms of care. SOS Children’s Villages also provides homes to families in Francistown, Serowe and Tlokweng. These homes are for families completely unable to care for their children. Since each family’s situation is different, the SOS Children’s Villages assistance adapts to each family. SOS Children’s Villages is one of the noteworthy charities in Botswana that is striving to give children a positive environment and a secure future.

3. Ray of Hope Botswana

Ray of Hope Botswana aspires to give children an education that is both comprehensive and consistent since 2015. Located in Gamodubu village, it is a youth-led organization that mentors more than 100 children who are typically 7 years old or younger. Gamodubu village has a primary and secondary school, but for children under the age of 6, the academic foundation is inadequate. Ray of Hope Botswana’s focus is on children who lack access to stable and good quality education. It provides tutoring in Math, English and Life Skills. It is one of the charities in Botswana determined to motivate children to rise above the poverty line.

4. Caritas Botswana

Founded in 1984, Caritas Botswana’s aspiration is to assist people out of poverty. The agency’s efforts promote the poor’s quality of life as it targets education, more adequate use of resources, improved access to health services and community involvement. As previously mentioned, HIV is a serious issue in Botswana. Caritas Botswana’s contributions, which consist of raising awareness and educating people about HIV and AIDS and offering transportation to those needing treatment, are essential in fighting this disease.

Additionally, Caritas Botswana runs more than 20 preschool centers, which train preschool teachers and give education, nutrition and welfare to more than 700 children. Along with this, Caritas Botswana helps communities cultivate long-term solutions for socio-economic development by contributing micro-financing and agricultural supplies such as seeds and farming tools. The agency also helps households increase their income by establishing credit programs and savings.

5. Lady Khama Charitable Trust

The founder of Lady Khama Charitable Trust, which is one of the many productive charities operating in Botswana, is Ian Khama, the fourth President of the Republic of Botswana. Founded in 2002, it raises funds for charities in Botswana that aim to help vulnerable children, women and people living with disabilities. Lady Khama Charitable Trust’s main asset is finding local organizations which are needing support and then providing them with that support. It has more than 18 “community upliftment projects,” nine of which are its core beneficiaries. This includes Camphill Community Trust, Bana Ba Metsi, Childline Botswana, Flying Mission Services, Little Friends Center, SOS Children’s Villages, Ray of Hope Foundation, Cancer Association of Botswana and Sponsor a Child Trust.

Despite the hardships Botswana faces, the country is improving. These five charities operating in Botswana are working to provide much-needed aid to Botswana. With focuses on education, serious illness, inequality, job production, health and security for children, each one is helping Botswana progress with its individual programs and techniques.

– Megan Roush
Photo: Pixabay

Cervical Cancer in Botswana
In November 2022, Penn Medicine, the clinical and research entity of the University of Pennsylvania, received a $3.5 million grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to better address cervical cancer in Botswana.

Poverty Among Women in Botswana

In Botswana, the percentage of employed women living under the international poverty line is 10.1% in comparison to 8.7% among employed men. The World Bank has explained that “vulnerable employees” are employees who are “the least likely to have formal work arrangements, social protection and safety nets to guard against economic shock.” In 2019, Botswanan women had a 23% vulnerable employment rate. In comparison, men had a 19% rate, meaning women were more susceptible to losing their sources of income and falling into poverty.

Women-headed households are more likely to suffer from poverty than male-headed households in Botswana. This is especially the case for women-headed households in rural areas as economic opportunities are scarce. Impoverished female households cannot afford health care for themselves or their families. The Botswana government has attempted to decrease poverty and increase access to medical treatments in Botswana.

The government released its Vision 2036 plan in 2016, which outlines transformation goals for Botswana to reach by 2036 in the realms of “Sustainable Economic Development; Human and Social Development; Sustainable Environment and Governance, Peace and Security.” In this plan, Botswana recognizes “good health and wellness” as a human right and a key to development. Botswana aims to significantly reduce HIV prevalence through greater emphasis on “prevention, treatment, care and support.”

Women’s Health in Botswana

Botswana’s HIV prevalence rate stood at about 20% in 2020, according to UNAIDS, with women accounting for most of these cases. UNAIDS explains that a woman living with HIV is as many as five times more likely to develop cervical cancer than a woman without HIV. The immunosuppression that HIV causes can exacerbate pre-cancerous lesions in the cervix.

As of 2021, 220,000 women in Botswana aged 15 or older are living with HIV. Cervical cancer stands as the main form of cancer mortality among Botswana’s female population. The death rate is “10 times higher” among Botswanan women than among the U.S. female population as women’s cancer treatment is lacking in Botswana.

Over the years, Botswana has made improvements with regard to cancer screening and treatment. However, several factors lead to delays in screening and diagnosis, which contributes to the high prevalence of cervical cancer cases in Botswana. Since 2001, the University of Pennsylvania has helped to improve health in Botswana through the Botswana-UPenn Partnership (BUP). BUP works with Botswana’s Ministry of Health, the University of Botswana and partners to “care for patients and develop initiatives advancing cancer education, research and capacity.”

Penn Medicine has noted that a lack of coordination and communication between labs, patients and healthcare centers leads to diagnosis and treatment delays.

Reduced Waiting Periods

The $3.5 million grant to Penn Medicine will go toward testing strategies that shorten women’s wait between screening, results and treatments. After the initial biopsy, months or even years can pass before a healthcare facility becomes aware that the diagnosis is cancer. A shorter waiting period and better communication between labs, clinics and patients can significantly improve a woman’s chance of surviving cervical cancer.

Penn Medicine’s research will play a significant role in reducing cases of cervical cancer in Botswana.

– Clara Mulvihill
Photo: Flickr

Kazungula Bridge
According to the World Bank, 58% of the Zambian population lives in extreme poverty, and 13% are unemployed. Although it is one of the poorest countries in the world, Zambia has an abundance of natural resources. However, it is landlocked. Its neighboring country Botswana, on the other hand, has a significantly lower percentage of poverty, around 20% of the population. A large part of its economy depends solely on diamonds which makes the country vulnerable to external economic factors. Both Zambia and Botswana would greatly benefit from increased trade to fuel economic growth and tackle poverty. However, the completion of the Kazungula Bridge will transform trade and boost economic growth.

The Zambezi River

The Zambezi river separates Zambia and Botswana. More specifically, this flow of water joins five countries together: Zambia, Angola, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Botswana. Separated only by the river, this geographical point forms one of Africa’s most important trade triangles. The area is vitally important to expanding the local markets of the countries involved. Before, the only way to cross the river was to load trucks onto a pontoon and wait for good weather. Now, according to African Business, the completion of the Kazungula Bridge will become “a key driver for the progress and sustainable economic growth of the African continent.”

Life Before the Kazungula Bridge

Before the building of the Kazungula Bridge, crossing between Zambia and Botswana was difficult and time-consuming. According to CNN, the river was a major obstacle to trucks and traders “from Lubumbashi in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to Durban, South Africa…” Vehicles would load up two by two into pontoons just to be hindered by strong currents and heavy rains. What was physically a 10-15 minute journey would take up to 15 days when waiting for the right weather conditions.

Furthermore, going through customs was a complicated process, especially with all the different countries involved at this major trading point. According to African Business, “traders and transporters along Southern Africa’s North-South Corridor have long been dogged by decrepit infrastructure, border delays and traffic jams, heightening both the cost and time of trade.”

Looking into the Future

Now, with the Kazungula Bridge in place, the passage has become much easier. The bridge is dramatically reducing congestion, lowering the cost of business and boosting trade not only between Zambia and Botswana but also around the world. According to CNN, copper from the DRC, Zambia and Tanzania pass through before heading toward China. Food from South Africa and mining equipment from Tanzania pass through before going to the rest of Africa.

Carlos Lopez, an economist and professor at the University of Cape Town, believes the Kazungula Bridge will spark trade and tourism. “We are talking about the confluence of Victoria Falls, Chobe, and Zambia’s most famous national parks… The potential to boost that type of eco-tourist offer is enormous…” With the level of poverty in Zambia and other neighboring countries, the completion of the Kazungula will hopefully be a boost to the economy. As truck driver Memory Lambie says, crossing into Zambia used to take two weeks with 10km long queues. “Now, it’s easy,” she says, “The bridge is 100% perfect to us.”

 – Emilie Zhang
Photo: Flickr

botswanas-new-role
Botswana’s economy is a diamond-centered market where mineral mining and diamond exports provide the driving monetary source for its governmental stability and current projections to become a high-income country by 2036. However, due to the lack of diversity in its exports, Botswana’s economy is susceptible to the volatility of the COVID-19 pandemic, diminishing returns from mining and inequality. As a result, Botswana’s new role as a coal provider will seek to diversify its economy and keep on track to becoming a high-income nation.

Context

Due to the Russia-Ukraine War, many European countries are looking to reduce their oil and gas dependence on Russian exports. As European countries look to the continent of Africa as a whole, President of Botswana Mokgweetsi Masisi is in talks with European government heads and private sectors to increase its coal production in the near future. Though Botswana has a limited supply of coal, alongside a concern to keep in line with the Paris Climate Agreement, Mineral Resources Minister Lefoko Moagi hopes to get the country supplying as much as 1 million tonnes a year according to Reuters. These goals may seem daunting and difficult to balance, but Botswana has already taken steps to ensure the production of more coal while diversifying its economy’s future.

New Sources of Energy

According to Reuters, Botswana is currently fielding offers from various Independent Power Producers to provide a 200 Megawatt center to be in commission in 2026 or 2027, which is part of Botswana’s larger goal of 18% of national energy production by renewable sources by 2030. With further projects on the agenda, renewable solar energy will provide a large chunk of the diversification of Botswana’s new role as an energy provider. The spur of renewable energy should supplement or eventually replace coal, as Botswana’s government-run coal power plants are currently meeting most of the country’s energy needs. The long-term plan is to increase its renewable energy sources as its exports of coal increase, diminishing its own reliance on coal.

Other Developments

Botswana’s new role in providing coal to European nations provides the revenue needed for its eventual economic diversification. In addition, other developments as listed by the World Bank are currently shaping the broader network of support and infrastructure for future dependence on renewable energy. Chiefly among these is the Programmatic Economic Resilience and Green Recovery Development Policy Loan I (DPO) worth up to $250 million which supports the Botswana government’s response to COVID-19, and assists in private and green economic development.

Additionally, there is the Emergency Water Security and Efficiency Project  ($145.5 million) which increases water access and decreases drought risk, the Integrated Transport Project ($186 million) which increases public transport and Roadmap for Sustainable Livestock Value Chain in Southern Africa (Botswana, Namibia and Eswatini. This development enhances sustainable livestock practices and provides analysis for further policy and market practices. In addition, to ensure a balance between private industry and state-run energy, the Country Private Sector Diagnostic looks for opportunists for private growth as well as constraints in the water energy and tourism sectors specifically.

Conclusion

Though a lot of work is necessary, Botswana’s new role as a coal provider to other countries provides an opportunity for it to build off of its diamond-centered economy and diversify into a sound high-income state with a mix of renewable state-owned and private energy enterprises. Despite the volatility of the COVID-19 pandemic and the mineral-dependent economy, Botswana has hope for a rising diversified economy.

–  Albert Vargas
Photo: Flickr

Period Poverty in BotswanaPeriod poverty is a global socio-economic issue that girls and women face due to the unaffordability of menstrual products and inaccessibility of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) facilities. To address period poverty in Botswana, the nation passed a motion in 2017 to supply free menstrual products to girls in both public and private schools. This will allow girls to continue their education amid their menstrual cycles.

Period Poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa

Because menstruation is a taboo topic in conservative communities and countries, many girls lack education on proper menstrual health and management. As a result of a lack of education and inability to access menstrual products, girls resort to dangerous substitutes, such as rags, wool and paper, that can lead to both short and long-term negative health consequences. In 2019, the World Bank noted that just 27% of people in sub-Saharan Africa had access to basic forms of sanitation, a factor that exacerbates difficulties in maintaining menstrual hygiene. Furthermore, due to a lack of access to WASH facilities, girls and women in sub-Saharan Africa are more susceptible to reproductive diseases.

Education is a fundamental right and a way out of poverty, yet, according to UNESCO, in 2014, due to period poverty, 10% of girls in sub-Saharan Africa missed school while menstruating. Furthermore, some girls lose 20% of their education, increasing the chances of girls dropping out of school entirely. The Botswana parliament’s motion for free period products to be available in schools highlights the importance of fighting period poverty to move closer to ending global poverty.

Cultural Issues

Due to menstrual taboos and stigmas, girls feel ashamed of their periods and miss school because of misinformation. When girls miss out on school, entire communities area are affected as the girl loses the ability to better the local area through the knowledge and skills gained through education. In Botswana, “religious beliefs, cultural practices and social myths” make discussing menstruation with adults difficult for young girls. As a result, girls do not know how to properly manage their menstruation. When girls do not feel shame about a natural biological process such as menstruation, these girls are empowered socially, physically, and ultimately, economically.

The Economics of Period Poverty

Sub-Saharan Africa has an extreme poverty rate of about 40% without much change from 1990 to 2018.  In Botswana specifically, according to the World Bank, the poverty rate reached 60% by April 2021 due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. These figures highlight the financial struggle of a vast amount of regional populations, a situation that makes purchasing period products understandably difficult. Period poverty in Botswana is partially a consequence of the high volume of impoverished residents that cannot afford basic necessities.

Solutions

The Botswana government is combating period poverty in Botswana with nationwide legal policies to provide all girls, both in public and private school institutions, with free period products. Through programs and legislation that allows open conversations and access to sanitary products, girls in Botswana are one step closer to breaking free from cycles of poverty.

– Ann Shick
Photo: Flickr

Botswana’s Interior Conflict
Botswana is a country that people know for its relatively peaceful and politically stable environment; however, it also has a high prevalence of HIV. It has some of the highest HIV rates of any country in the world, which particularly affects Botswana’s women and children. This reality affects several factors contributing to Botswana’s society and economy, including a drastically fallen life expectancy, the death rate, the effects of the virus on the body and the age of those most affected. For more than 40 years, HIV/AIDs in Botswana has been prevalent resulting in a conflict between HIV/AIDs and economic success. Here is some information about it as well as how the country is tackling HIV/AIDs in Botswana.

HIV/AIDs in Botswana

In its article on the economic impact of AIDs in Botswana, the POLICY Project writes that the virus is “different from most other diseases because it strikes people in the most productive age groups and is essentially 100 percent fatal.” This directly impacts the economy by essentially removing people who would be productively contributing. The economic output then plummets because the loss of young, formerly able-bodied adults limits the workforce. The shortage of skilled, trained laborers impacts income distribution across economic sectors as well.

The life expectancy in Botswana has fallen drastically. Some estimates place it at 60 years in 1990, then 40 years in 2001 and about a projected 30 years as of 2010. In his memoir “When a Crocodile Eats the Sun: A Memoir of Africa,” Peter Godwin explained that AIDs impacts the younger generation in particular. Due to the low life expectancy that the virus creates, there are villages where the oldest members of the community are teenagers. Projections estimated that two out of every five children would become orphans by 2010, subsequently requiring state aid.

The Effects of the Virus

There are several principal costs that many people associate with having AIDs. Direct costs or physical, financial losses include medical care, treatment drugs and funeral expenses. Indirect costs, or more long-term, possibly unforeseen financial losses include lost work time, care of children who have lost their families due to AIDs and time spent searching for and hiring new workers to replace those lost to the virus. These are costs to Botswana’s economy in general, as well as to individuals and their households.

The effects of AIDs on the economy are particularly apparent in Botswana, a country that many otherwise applaud for being a lower-middle-income country that has avoided several other economic downfalls in recent years. Nevertheless, on a microeconomic level, households with AIDs in Botswana struggle to acquire basic necessities such as healthcare, education, food and shelter. Loss of employment and particularly the loss of a family’s breadwinner can begin a downward slope into extreme poverty. This then expands outwards to include the macroeconomy where businesses and firms are understaffed and have to close. Botswana’s conflict between HIV/AIDs and economic success is clearly one of the country’s greatest to date.

Solutions

Botswana has made leaps in tackling its HIV/AIDs in Botswana; however, a “one-size-fits-all approach” does not target specific high-risk groups and means reaching far fewer people. Those most at-risk –men who have sex with men, sex workers, young people and women– require individual strategies to deal with the prevalence of AIDS.

The use of condoms and sex education have played major roles in attempts to control the epidemic. The Ministry of Health and UNDP educate teachers first, who then spread their awareness to their young students. Peace Corps volunteers to Botswana work with the government and with the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) to better respond to the AIDs epidemic. Volunteers work in small communities addressing and educating on AIDs, with a focus on the youth.

Though no one solution exists regarding tackling HIV/AIDs in Botswana, global and regional efforts work to weaken and reverse a painful national slide. Botswana stands to gain much from meaningful efforts focused on health and the economy.

– Grace Manning
Photo: Flickr

Drones Protect Botswana's MothersChildbirth in Botswana carries high risks, especially because remoteness threatens safe deliveries for women. If complications arise, it can take hours to transport patients to adequate medical facilities. The lengthy travel time to get medical assistance can prove lethal. In response, the U.N. devised a solution involving drone technology. Drones protect Botswana’s mothers by delivering essential medical supplies. Excessive bleeding is a primary cause of maternal mortality and medical drones can now deliver blood to women who need it. In May 2021, Botswana became the third African nation to implement the Drones For Health project in order to improve maternal health.

Botswana’s Maternal Mortality Rate

Prior to Botswana’s independence from the United Kingdom in 1966, the country had one of the highest poverty rates in the world. Since then, abundant resources and an adept government significantly reduced poverty. Botswana is now considered an upper-middle-income country. However, childbirth risks remain high. Botswana’s 2019 maternal mortality rate was 166 deaths per 100,000 births.

While the worldwide maternal mortality rate dropped by nearly half from 1990 to 2010, progress has been slower in many sub-Saharan African countries. Through projects like Drones For Health, Botswana works toward a 2025 goal of reducing its maternal mortality rate to 71 deaths per 100,000 births.

How Maternal Mortality Impacts Poverty

Maternal mortality harshly impacts poverty as a mother is often a central figure in a household and in society, taking on multiple functions and responsibilities. Surviving children often drop out of school in order to fulfill household obligations or take on employment to compensate for lost household income due to a mother’s death. Children without mothers often have deficient health outcomes because they are less likely to be immunized and often do not receive adequate healthcare when sick. Furthermore, due to the severe economic challenges of losing a mother, some young girls are forced to marry early.

The Drones For Health Initiative

Botswanan academics and government officials worked with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to put the Drones For Health initiative in motion. The medical drones have launch pads in four locations across the country, all situated next to healthcare facilities. The drones protect Botswana’s mothers by completing quick deliveries of blood. As long as the cargo is less than two kilograms, the drones can also carry medications and other medical supplies. Medical drones are also able to bypass infrastructure limitations such as uneven roads or missing bridges. These barriers prevent land-based vehicles from delivering blood to remote areas. In addition to providing a life-saving service, the battery-powered drones cause much less pollution than a land vehicle making the same trip.

Poverty is the main predictor of women’s endangerment during deliveries. Without traveling to medical facilities or hiring a midwife, childbirth becomes exponentially more difficult and risky. Botswana’s medical drone project exemplifies the benefits of creative and tech-savvy strategies to reduce maternal mortality.

– Lucy Gentry
Photo: Unsplash

HIV/AIDS Prevention and Treatment in Botswana
The AIDS crisis shook the world in the 1980s, but some countries, including Botswana, are still trying to find their footing in terms of HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment. HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment in Botswana has been a struggle, but the country is taking the right steps forward to fight the virus.

HIV/AIDS Prevention and Treatment in Botswana

Botswana has the fourth-highest rate of HIV in the world, with a rate of 20.3%. In 2000, the peak rate was 26.3% and rates have decreased every year since. The National AIDS Coordinating Agency created a treatment plan to offer universal free antiretroviral treatment (ART), making Botswana the first country in the Southern African region to do so. This effectively reduced the rates of HIV in Botswana.

This first strategy for treatment is simple. The test and treat strategy gives people who test positive for HIV access to immediate treatment. With enough treatment, HIV levels can become so low that they are undetectable on a test. However, this does not mean treatment should be stopped. Continued treatment is necessary in order to maintain an “undetectable viral load,” which means the chance of a person transmitting HIV is zero.

Women and HIV/AIDS

More than half (56%) of people who have HIV in Botswana are women. HIV disproportionately affects women in Botswana for reasons including sex work, forced marriage, domestic violence and more. Botswana’s HIV prevention strategy includes offering protective solutions as 85% of condoms available in the country are free. However, the country’s sex education is vague and does not cater to women or young people.

Many women contract HIV at a young age because of forced youth marriage, domestic violence and more. Botswana’s sex education program holds ideas such as faithfulness and cultural traditions as the basis of its programs. Without comprehensive and adequate sex education, Botswana’s HIV rates remain high even though treatment is easily accessible.

HIV’s disproportionate effect on women in Botswana triggered the creation of a second treatment plan called Option B+. Option B+ functions similarly to the test and treat strategy, but is specific to women. Since women can pass HIV on to children, after a woman tests positive for HIV once, she receives ART for the rest of her life under Option B+, regardless of whether the HIV becomes undetectable on a test. This lowers the chance of a woman passing HIV on to a baby, which reduces HIV rates among the general population.

Looking Ahead

Botswana’s treatment plans for HIV and AIDS using ART transformed the country from struggling with an epidemic to having a strong plan for it. As of 2017, out of 380,000 people who had HIV in Botswana, 320,000 of them had access to treatment. Botswana is on its way to ending AIDS as a public health threat through its treatment plans.

– Sana Mamtaney
Photo: Flickr

UNAIDS’ Treatment Initiatives for HIV/AIDS in BotswanaAccording to a UNAIDS report in 2019, 380,000 children and adults in Botswana are living with HIV/AIDS. The deadly disease has made a prominent appearance in Botswana, which is currently one of the most affected countries in the world. However, with the help of UNAIDS treatment initiatives for HIV/AIDS in Botswana, the country has managed to establish valuable antiretroviral treatment (ART) and raise awareness for HIV/AIDS.

HIV/AIDS: The disease and its symptoms

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a deadly virus that is spread through bodily fluids and targets human immune cells. When the virus fuses with white blood cells, it hijacks the immune system and leaves the victim highly susceptible to disease. Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrom (AIDS) occurs when HIV goes without treatment and a person’s immune system is weak as a result of the virus.

Properly monitoring and managing the disease is important in slowing down the progression of the virus in its early stages. Symptoms of HIV include skin rashes, a sore throat, a fever and swollen glands. When doctors diagnose and test for HIV, they look for the appearance of HIV antibodies in the bloodstream. International Training and Education Center for Health (I-TECH) in Botswana is a program that conducts HIV testing and posts information about the spread and transfer of the disease.

Prevalence and Primary Modes of Communication

HIV/AIDS is most commonly spread through broken wounds and contaminated bodily fluids. Participating in sexual activities without protection or HIV-prevention medicine can result in the transmission of the virus. HIV/AIDS cannot pass through saliva, sweat or urine unless they contain traces of infected blood. Using needles with HIV-contaminated blood, as well as rare cases of blood transfusions present a risk of being exposed to the virus. Less common ways of contracting HIV/AIDS include infection during birth and pregnancy from mother to child.

In Botswana, female sex workers and youth are at the biggest risk of contracting HIV/AIDS. A 2012 study by the Ministry of Health found that 61.9% out of 4,000 female sex workers in Botswana have HIV. Additionally, of those surveyed, 18.6% of female sex workers did not wear condoms out of force, and 23.9% for money. Similarly, a lack of awareness and information about HIV/AIDS transmission has caused youth under the age of 15 to participate in sexual activities without protection. This has created even more HIV/AIDS cases among the youth of Botswana.

UNAIDS’s Approach to HIV/AIDS Treatment

Receiving treatment for HIV early on plays an important role in stopping the progression of the virus before it develops into AIDS. Early treatment can increase life expectancy and make living with the virus more manageable. In the United States, HIV does not often progress into AIDS. This is because frequent treatment at correct intervals can significantly slow down the rate at which the virus replicates. However, treatment is not easily accessible or cheap in many developing countries such as Botswana. This is a challenge that UNAIDS is currently helping to overcome.

In response to Botswana’s move to offer free treatment to non-citizens, UNAIDS Executive Director Gunilla Carlsson stated, “This measure will save lives and help the entire country progress toward ending the AIDS epidemic — it is another example of Botswana’s leadership and its determination to leave no one behind in the response to HIV.”

UNAIDS Treatment Initiatives for HIV/AIDS in Botswana

UNAIDS has maintained a plan to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic by 2030 through the implementation of ART for all Botswanians and collaborative work with the government of Botswana. As of 2017, 320,000 people of the 380,000 inhabitants of Botswana living with HIV now have access to treatment. Carlsson asserted that “the main challenge that Botswana is facing in its AIDS response is complacency. If the country can overcome this challenge, then it will show the whole world that it can be done.”

UNAIDS’s goal is to prevent the spread of the virus by educating the public and obtaining funding. Due to the combined effort of the government of Botswana and UNAIDS, Botswana was the first country in Eastern and Southern Africa to offer free HIV treatment regardless of living status or citizenship. It has also adopted a strategy that allows immediate treatment for those who test positive for the virus. This has decreased the cases of AIDS and improved the quality of life for those living with the disease. Among other exemplary HIV/AIDS programs, UNAID treatment initiatives for HIV/AIDS in Botswana are helping save millions of lives.

– Esha Kelkar
Photo: Flickr

Extreme Poverty in Botswana
The nation of Botswana, home to approximately 2.3 million people, has undergone an amazing change over the past three decades, transforming from an impoverished nation to one of the wealthiest nations in sub-Saharan Africa. While many of its neighbors have lagged behind—in fact, the United Nations classifies sub-Saharan Africa as the poorest region in the world—Botswana reduced the percentage of its population living on less than $1.90 a day from 29.8% between 2002-2003 to 16.1% between 2015-2016. What are the secrets to success in combatting extreme poverty in Botswana that have allowed it to prosper relative to its neighboring African nations?

A Brief Look at the History of Botswana

Botswana gained its independence from Great Britain in 1966 and quickly adopted a parliamentary constitutional republic. In fact, Botswana is the oldest democracy on the continent, though one party—the Botswana Democratic Party—has dominated elections since the adoption of the country’s constitution. Compared to its neighbors, Botswana began with a commitment to free enterprise, rule of law and individual liberties. Its first president, Seretse Khama, had a devotion to fighting corruption, which was critical to Botswana’s success.

To fight extreme poverty in Botswana, the country invested in four critical pillars: public institutions, education, economic diversification and women’s rights.

4 Pillars to Tackling Extreme Poverty in Botswana

  1. One of the most remarkable aspects of Botswana is its extraordinarily low levels of corruption as a result of institutional checks and balances. According to the 2017 Corruption Perception Index, Botswana was the least corrupt nation in Africa, with its score twice as high as the average sub-Saharan African nation. Botswana is one of only a handful of nations that outperform parts of Western Europe, with its score outpacing Spain in 2018. This is as a result of institutional checks and balances, including the Corruption and Economic Crime Act of 1994 and the development of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime, an agency tasked with investigating and preventing corruption. As a resource-rich state known for diamond mining, Botswana was careful to prevent government employees from benefiting from what the nation’s first president deemed public resources.
  2. Botswana invests a considerable percentage of its GDP in education; this percentage was more than 20% in 2009. Botswana’s investment in education translated to a literacy rate of 87% in 2019, compared to a regional average of 65%. High rates of education have contributed to Botswana’s increased economic diversification and strong political stability, making the nation one of the more attractive places to do business in Africa.
  3. Smart economic development has contributed to Botswana’s high living standards and low corruption levels, placing it ahead of its peers. Botswana derived much of its early economic growth from diamond extraction which, among other exports, accounts for approximately 40% of Botswana’s GDP composition by end-use. However, consistent investment in other sectors of the economy has remained a strategy for the ruling party, and the government has increasingly diversified its economy towards the service sector and tourism jobs. Investment in conservation and wildlife has grown the tourism industry to approximately 14% of Botswana’s GDP,  nearly doubling since 1999. Remarkably, Botswana’s commitment to managing its domestic ecosystems allowed it to sign one of the first “debt-for-nature” agreements with the United States, which forgave more than $8 million in debt in exchange for the continued protection of the Okavango Delta and tropical forests.
  4. In addition to the high rates of women’s education and literacy, Botswana remains committed to a strong National Family Planning Policy and healthcare service. Botswana has experienced a rapid decline in fertility, according to the CIA World Factbook, with the total fertility rate falling from over five children per woman in the 1980s to 2.42 in 2021. Easy access to contraception and above-average rural and urban access to healthcare facilities have not only contributed to a decline in fertility but emboldened women’s rights and improved standards of living.

Botswana is by no means a perfect nation. It has extremely high rates of HIV/AIDS, like many of its African peers, and its single-party government has been criticized by some international organizations for suppressing competition. However, decades of consistent improvement in education and women’s rights, increased economic diversification, high levels of economic freedom and a commitment to fighting corruption have made Botswana the most prosperous nation in sub-Saharan Africa and a model for its peers.

– Saarthak Madan
Photo: Flickr