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homelessness in BotswanaLocated in Southern Africa, Botswana is categorized as a middle-income country, making it one of the most economically stable countries on the continent. Botswana models an egalitarian philosophy with judicial respect toward human rights following its Constitution adopted in 1966. Equal and affordable housing has been a pillar of the country’s rhetoric. However, in recent years, with growing population density and uncertain job prospects, cost-effective housing is no longer guaranteed. Here’s what you need to know about homelessness in Botswana.

6 Facts About Homelessness in Botswana

  1. In Botswana, land is divided by locally elected officials who serve on land boards. Members of the board allocate pieces of land to citizens free of charge. As 79% of the country consists of viable land for agriculture and recreational use, selling property personally is illegal.
  2. Nearly one-third of Botswana’s population lives in peri-urban areas outside of the capital. In recent years, the country’s extraordinary population growth has led to a large population of squatters outside of Gaborone, the nation’s capital and largest city. Since the 1990s, the number of people living within Gaborone and its periphery has increased by 90%. The reason for this large and sudden migration is a shrinking interest in agriculture. People move closer to the city in search of work. But the cities are not equipped for such a high concentration of people, and the government is slow-moving in processing land requests. As such, citizens have to to fend for themselves. Because of this land scarcity, landowners are dividing their property and charging rent.
  3. The government objects to this unofficial market for a few reasons. The first is that people see land as being sacred. For the government, citizens do not own land but instead enjoy it as a customary right. The second reason is that goods and services such as electricity, water and sewage are harder to distribute if the land is cluttered with unregistered housing. In some cases, when squatters settle in unused agricultural land, the government believes that the land is wasted. A piece of agricultural land populated with 5,000 squatters could have held 20,000 to 25,000 households if divided correctly.
  4. The government received backlash in 2001 when more than 2,000 squatters’ homes were demolished. Citizens firstly disagreed with the government’s choice to not address the faults of the land allocations that had forced people to live in unregistered housing. They also expressed their distaste for the apathetic manner in which the homes were destroyed. Since then, some communication has occurred between Botswana citizens and the government regarding the tradition of sacred land and the opportunities present in an open market.
  5. Due to the lack of available land and the consequences of living on unregistered property, some citizens’ living conditions are less than sufficient. Many areas are overcrowded. In addition, citizens often face a lack of water, sanitation and electricity. As a result, their settlements come to be marked as slums. The most recent data on the population density in Botswana slums was taken in 2001. It reported that 61% of citizens lived in slums, which means that Botswana has a high prevalence of slums. Generally, the prevalence of slums is higher in countries that rely on government land distribution like Botswana.
  6. Administrative land allocation can be slow and unorganized, but it can also be discriminatory. In Botswana, citizens who earn less than $630 a year are denied housing. This is due to their presumed inability to pay their housing fees. As a result, this contributes to the issue of homelessness in Botswana. Furthermore, citizens who make less than $3,439 do not qualify for building loans, which prevents them from constructing a home.

Moving Toward Change

In 2016, Botswana’s Ministry of Lands and Housing held a national workshop to discuss the Participatory Slum Upgrading Program. The Participatory Slum Upgrading Program is a plan that incorporates Sustainable Development Goals to assess and address the needs of slum dwellers. Additionally, the ministry announced its $150,000 budget for the improvement of living conditions. This plan primarily focuses on areas of basic services such as access to clean water, adequate space, sanitation and electricity. Along with the Homeless and Poor People’s Federation of Botswana, the ministry plans to legalize an open housing market and privatized land allocation.

Another organization rising to meet the challenge of housing is the Botswana Defence Force (BDF), which focuses on child welfare and builds halfway homes. These homes serve as an in-between living space for homeless children who have been abandoned by family members or left as orphans. They stay in halfway homes, which also accommodate adults and caregivers, before they are given proper placement. Each home features a lounge, kitchen, rest area, bathroom, office and storage space. In addition, the BDF helps build homes, collect trash and establish community gardens.

Things have changed since Botswana’s land and agricultural rights policy. Citizens and larger organizations are working to balance the government’s emphasis on law in order and the benefits of an open market. The return to affordable housing could be the tipping point citizens are looking for to change the current state of economic inequality and eliminate homelessness in Botswana.

Alexa Tironi

Photo: Flickr

Tuberculosis in BotswanaBotswana is a southern African country with just over 2 million residents living inside its borders. Every Batswana lives with the threat of tuberculosis, an infectious disease that remains one of the top 10 causes of death on the African continent. Tuberculosis has a 50% global death rate for all confirmed cases. Investing in tuberculosis treatments and prevention programs is essential. Botswana has one of the highest tuberculosis infection rates in the world with an estimated 300 confirmed cases per 100,000 people, according to the CDC. Preventative and community-based treatment shows promise in combating tuberculosis in Botswana.

Treating Tuberculosis in Botswana

Tuberculosis treatment cures patients by eliminating the presence of infectious bacteria in the lungs. The first phase of treatment lasts two months. It requires at least four separate drugs to eliminate the majority of the bacteria. Health workers administer a second, shorter phase of treatment to minimize the possibility of remaining bacteria in the lungs.

Early identification of tuberculosis is a crucial step in the treatment process and significantly reduces the risk of patient death, according to the Ministry of Health. Preventative treatment methods are vital because they inhibit the development of tuberculosis infection. They also reduce the risk of patient death significantly.

Health workers detect tuberculosis with a bacteriological examination in a medical laboratory. The U.S. National Institutes of Health estimate that a single treatment costs $258 in countries like Botswana.

Involving the Community

Botswana’s Ministry of Health established the National Tuberculosis Programme (BNTP) in 1975 to fight tuberculosis transmission. The BNTP is currently carrying out this mission through a community-based care approach that goes beyond the hospital setting. Although 85% of Batswana live within three miles of a health facility, it is increasingly difficult for patients to travel for daily tuberculosis treatment. This is due to the lack of transportation options in much of the country.

Involving the community requires the training and ongoing coordination of volunteers in communities throughout the country to provide tuberculosis treatment support. Community-based care also improves treatment adherence and outcome through affordable and feasible treatment.

The implementation of strategies such as community care combats tuberculosis. For example, it mobilizes members of the community to provide treatment for tuberculosis patients. The participation of community members also provides an unintended but helpful consequence. For example, community participation helps to reduce the stigmas surrounding the disease and reveals the alarming prevalence of tuberculosis in Botswana.

A Second Threat

In addition to the tuberculosis disease, the HIV epidemic in Africa has had a major impact on the Botswana population, with 20.3% of adults currently living with the virus. Patients with HIV are at high risk to develop tuberculosis due to a significant decrease in body cell immunity.

The prevalence of HIV contributes to the high rates of the disease. The level of HIV co-infection with tuberculosis in Botswana is approximately 61%. African Comprehensive HIV/AIDS Partnerships (ACHAP), a nonprofit health development organization, provides TB/HIV care and prevention programs in 16 of the 17 districts across the country in its effort to eradicate the disease.

Fighting Tuberculosis on a Global Scale

The World Health Organization (WHO) hopes to significantly reduce the global percentage of tuberculosis death and incident rates through The End TB Strategy adopted in 2014. The effort focuses on preventative treatment, poverty alleviation and research to tackle tuberculosis in Botswana, aiming to reduce the infection rate by 90% in 2035. The WHO plans to reduce the economic burden of tuberculosis and increase access to health care services. In addition, it plans to combat other health risks associated with poverty. Low-income populations are at greater risk for tuberculosis transmission for several reasons including:

  • Poor ventilation
  • Undernutrition
  • Inadequate working conditions
  • Indoor air pollution
  • Lack of sanitation

The WHO emphasizes the significance of global support in its report on The End TB Strategy stating that, “Global coordination is…essential for mobilizing resources for tuberculosis care and prevention from diverse multilateral, bilateral and domestic sources.”

– Madeline Zuzevich
Photo: Flickr

90-90-90: A Bold New Goal in the Fight Against AIDSWhen the U.N. met its goal to provide 15 million HIV-affected people with treatment by 2015, it did not pause to celebrate its victory. Two years prior, in 2013, the organization had already crafted a new goal in the fight against the HIV/AIDS epidemic. By 2020, UNAIDS hopes to see a world that has accomplished something miraculous: 90-90-90.

90-90-90 is a target comprised of three interconnected objectives:

  1. By 2020, 90 percent of people living with HIV will know their diagnosis.
  2. By 2020, 90 percent of all HIV-positive individuals who have been diagnosed will receive antiretroviral therapy.
  3. By 2020, 90 percent of all HIV-positive individuals undergoing treatment will achieve viral suppression.

While the plan is straightforward and succinct, UNAIDS has self-awarely deemed it a “bold new target,” which may seem impossible to achieve to some. However, many countries around the globe are well on their way to achieving the elusive 90-90-90.

Most of the nations closest to 90-90-90 are part of the developed world, including Australia, Denmark and the UK. Unfortunately, poverty and weak healthcare systems make developing regions particularly vulnerable to the transmission of HIV. In fact, HIV is the second leading cause of death in developing countries.

HIV is more prevalent in Africa than in any other continent. Since the start of the AIDS epidemic, African countries such as Zimbabwe, Uganda and Botswana have exhibited average life expectancies up to 20 years lower than the rest of the world.

Despite HIV’s lethal presence in the developing world, there are methods that can be implemented to decrease HIV transmission and facilitate treatment in all nations.

In order to increase the amount of HIV-positive people who know their status, HIV testing must become more proactive. Some individuals infected with the HIV virus may not present symptoms and, therefore, will not be tested for the disease and never learn their status. Health campaigns in Uganda have increased their coverage of HIV status by 72 percent, simply by incorporating HIV tests in routine healthcare visits.

In many countries, HIV treatment is flawed due to its reliance on CD4 cell count. CD4 T-cells are the immune cells destroyed by the HIV virus. Ordinarily, HIV treatment is only given to people whose CD4 levels are low enough to put them at risk of developing AIDS. However, without treatment, anyone with HIV can pass on the virus, regardless of CD4 levels.

In 2002, Botswana began offering antiretroviral treatment to anyone infected with HIV. Botswana is now closer to 90-90-90 than almost any other country in Africa.

HIV treatment must be sustained in order to reach viral suppression – the final objective. In the Caribbean, 66 percent of individuals receiving treatment attain viral suppression. The ability to ascertain viral suppression status is reliant on viral load testing, which analyzes the amount of the HIV virus in the blood. Unfortunately, the medical technology required for viral load testing is not easily accessible throughout the globe. Recent data shows that the ability to perform these tests will likely inhibit viral suppression in the developing world. However, the work of the Diagnostics Access Initiative, which creates sustainable medical labs, has successfully decreased the global price of viral load tests by 40 percent, which will make them more accessible in impoverished regions.

While 90-90-90 may seem like an ambitious or overly optimistic dream, the methodology of efficiently diagnosing and treating HIV has proven successful in many countries. If strategically implemented on a global scale, these methods could feasibly eradicate HIV/AIDS and eventually heal the world of this epidemic.

Mary Efird

Photo: Flickr

Benefits of Solar Power
Solar panels are making a major impact on the lives of rural families in Botswana. About 80 percent of people in Botswana have been utilizing firewood for sources of light and heat. Unfortunately, many acres of forest have been destroyed due to the loss of trees used for their light and heat. Now that the UNDP-supported Rural Electrification Program is in place, life in Botswana has changed for the better. The goal of the program is to provide 65,000 homes with solar power.

A benefit of solar power is the time saved by women and girls. Retrieving wood and constantly tending to the fire to maintain light and heat in the home can be a time-consuming task. Newer wood-saving stoves being used in Botswana can cook a four-person meal with only a kilogram of wood, which reduces the wood gathering time and intensive work. This gives people more time to invest in other needs.

There are many benefits of solar power compared to other forms of fossil fuel energy. For example, solar power does not release any pollutants into the environment. Solar panels are a good investment because they are cheap and can supply power indefinitely with no ongoing costs. For countries struggling with poverty in Africa, cheap energy is a smart, long-term solution.

Solar power in countries like Botswana allows families to focus on other important things in their life, as opposed to constantly retrieving wood just to fulfill their basic needs. Botswana is one of Africa’s more stable countries, mostly free of corruption. The country is the world’s largest producer of diamonds, making the country a middle-income nation. The benefits of solar power are an important move in powering the country in the right direction.

Chloe Turner

Photo: Google

Causes of Poverty in Botswana

The discovery of diamonds in 1967 helped Botswana to move from one of the poorest countries in Africa to a middle income country. Ironically, that same discovery contributed to vast levels of income inequality and poverty in the nation. Though Botswana is not technically a poor nation, substantial clusters of poverty remain in its rural areas. In some rural areas, the poverty rate is as high as 46 percent and unemployment for the country is at 20 percent. Here are some of the main causes of poverty in Botswana.

  1. Education
    The skills taught in the education sector often do not match the skills needed to execute jobs available in the job market. This has led to a mass influx of certain skills in the job market, resulting in high unemployment for graduates. Several youths between the ages of 15 and 24 are unemployed in Botswana due to being poorly prepared for potential careers. This age group makes up 51 percent of the unemployed population in Botswana.
  2. Gender
    Unemployment rates are higher among women than men. Botswana men are generally better educated than women so their employment rates tend to be higher. Women also have trouble entering the labor force because of social standards and barriers. Because of these barriers, women make up a mere 36 percent of formal sector employees but make up 75 percent of informal sector employees.
  3. Inequality in Cattle Distribution
    Lack of ownership of livestock is a significant cause of poverty in Botswana. About 47 percent of farmers do not own cattle and those who do own cattle only own small herds. Thus, the poorest 71 percent of traditional farmers own only about 8 percent of total traditional herds, while the richest 2.5 percent own about 40 percent. About 10 percent of farming households own 60 percent of the 2.3 million cattle in the country. This system makes it so that wealth in the country continues to be dispersed unequally. The rich remain rich and the poor remain poor.

While there are several causes of poverty in Botswana, the future of Botswana’s economy looks optimistic. The Botswana government has recently released Vision 2036, a framework designed to reduce the poverty rate and secure prosperity for all. The plan is ambitious and is backed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Prior to creating the plan, the president engaged in a countrywide dialogue with citizens of Botswana to understand their goals and needs, ensuring that Vision 2036 captures their perspectives. If the plan is effective, by 2036 Botswana will be a high-income country with virtually no one living under the poverty line.

Jeanine Thomas

Photo: Flickr

Cost of Living in Botswana
Botswana is a landlocked nation located in southern Africa, surrounded by South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe. Whilst having a small population of around 2.25 million it should not be underestimated as, according to the World Bank, “a development success story.”

Since its gaining of independence in 1966, Botswana has managed to have over four decades of uninterrupted civilian leadership, with progressive social policy and one of the fastest-growing economies in Africa. With all this and more, it is no wonder the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has called Botswana “the most stable economy in Africa.”

Now with Botswana gaining a middle-income status, one may wonder what is the cost of living in Botswana. According to the Mercer’s 2015 Cost of Living report, Botswana was ranked at 189 out of 207 countries. As a whole, Botswana is ranked on the lower end of one of the most expensive places to live in the world. The average price for a one-bedroom apartment in the city center costs around 3,000 Pula ($295) as opposed to living outside of the city center where rent would be 2,175 Pula ($214).

Naturally, the cost of living in Botswana changes depending on where a person is living, for example, according to ExpatsArrival, “For expats who choose to settle in Gaborone (the capital city), close proximity to local transport and schools pushes up the price of housing.”

However, we must also understand that while the cost of living may be comparatively small to other nations, the standard of living between the rich and poorer is visibly different. Botswana has a poverty rate of 19%, with the majority of poorer areas located in more rural areas. In addition, the unemployment rate in Botswana is 17.8%. As a consequence, the World Bank claims that Botswana’s income inequality “is among one of the highest in the world.”

The low cost of living in Botswana is just one of its several attractions. It has a great progressive political system, which has made leaps and bounds on its education system, educating more women and thereby decreasing the fertility rate in Botswana. It has a growing and stable economy much of which is attributed to its export of luxury goods in the form of diamonds. It’s no wonder InterNations claim that “Botswana holds plenty of opportunities for expatriates hoping to start a new life in Botswana.”

Obinna Iwuji

Photo: Flickr

5 Things You Should Know About Water Quality in Botswana
The small southern African country of Botswana is known to hold one of the world’s highest economic growth rates since achieving independence in 1966. The nation of 2.2 million people has transformed from its initial impoverished state to a middle-income country through diamond mining, tourism and common farming practices.

Due to the downturn in the global diamond market, however, the economy experienced a low point following the 2008 global recession, with widespread water and power shortages. In just this past year, water quality in Botswana has demanded significant attention as the nation entered its fourth year of drought, posing serious threats to the agriculture sector. Here are five things you should know about water quality in Botswana.

  1. A 2012 water sector policy brief conducted by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) stated that Botswana’s water sources consist primarily of underground water and surface water (rivers, pans and dams), all of which are shared with neighboring countries. Collecting enough water for households and communities has posed several challenges in response to access and exerts additional pressure on Botswana’s water resources.
  2. Worsening climatic conditions only emphasize the depth of droughts and the crisis of water quality in Botswana. These factors force individuals to turn to the government to build infrastructure, find adequate solutions and join different South African pipeline schemes, though they will be costly. While the country has water in dams in the north, that water cannot be moved down to the south.
  3. In March 2017, The World Bank approved a $145.5 million loan to the Republic of Botswana for the Emergency Water Security and Efficiency Project, which will help Botswana cope with increased water stress arising from the drought crisis, and aid in the sustainable development of the country, given current climate change projections. Hundreds of thousands of people will benefit from this plan to restore existing water supply systems and improve the sustainability of water resources in Botswana.
  4. According to the CIA World Factbook, drinking water sources have improved for 96.2 percent of the total population, leaving 3.8 percent of the total population with unimproved sources.
  5. Sanitation facility access has reportedly improved for 63.4 percent of the total population and remains unimproved for 36.6 percent of the total population.

The issue of drought and water quality in Botswana leaves the country in a position where its people must adapt to water scarcity. Fortunately, with the introduction of environmental projects and recognition of the problem, efficient methods of restoring the economy of Botswana and its industries will soon take effect.

Mikaela Frigillana

Photo: Flickr


Located in Southern Africa, Botswana is one of Africa’s most stable countries, with a solid economy built on diamonds and Safari-based tourism. However, the country continues to struggle with high rates of HIV/AIDS, as well as other preventable diseases. Here are the top three deadliest diseases in Botswana:

1. HIV

HIV is not only one of the deadliest diseases in Botswana, but it is also the number one cause of death, accounting for 32 percent of all deaths in the country. Despite the disease’s prevalence, the Ministry of Health’s national HIV program has helped efforts progress. Approximately 96 percent of people in need of HIV treatment in Botswana have received it. Increased prevention of mother-to-child transmission has reduced the transmission rate to less than four percent.

2. Malaria

While seven percent of deaths each year are due to malaria, Botswana has significantly reduced the disease’s burden. Government interventions, such as establishing rapid response teams and adequate healthcare facilities, has helped reduce incidences from 0.99 to 0.01 percent between 2000 and 2012. Botswana’s progress has not gone unnoticed. In 2016, the country received the African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA) Award for its progress in reducing malaria.

3. Tuberculosis (TB)

Tuberculosis is very common in Botswana, causing six percent of deaths each year. Part of what makes TB so dangerous is that it is a common opportunistic infection in people with HIV. In Botswana, 75 percent of patients with TB are HIV-positive. TB rates began rising in Botswana with the increase in HIV/AIDS in the 1990s, with rates from 200 cases per 100,000 people in 1990 to 620 per 100,000 in 2002. With the help of international partners, the government has launched numerous programs aimed at increasing testing, prevention and awareness of the link between HIV and TB.

Despite its steady economy and stable government, Botswana continues to suffer from high rates of preventable diseases. That said, the government has made significant progress in reducing this prevalence of these diseases and continues to dedicate important time and resources to prevention.

Alexi Worley

Photo: Flickr


Botswana was rated as Serious on the Global Hunger Index, and hunger in Botswana is a problem that is highly correlated with climate. Botswana has a semi-arid climate that is not opportune to grow food. In the summer, temperatures can climb as high as 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit).

For this reason, the nation imports 90 percent of its food. Global food prices in 2011 were particularly high, and this caused Botswana’s food security to suffer. Every few decades, Botswana experiences a drought that can last five years or more. Those in poverty cannot afford imported food, and therefore are most affected by droughts within the country.

From 2008-2012, 31 percent of children in Botswana suffered moderate to severe stunting due to malnutrition, according to UNICEF. In 2016, almost a quarter of the population was malnourished and 23 percent of children under five years old were affected by stunting. In 2012, the amount of stunting in children under five was doubled in children from the most impoverished families compared to children from wealthier families. The government has invested in infrastructure to help increase food production.

Climate change directly affects crops and water for irrigation. Ninety-five percent of crops in sub-Saharan Africa depend on rainwater irrigation. There is an average of 460 mm of rain in Botswana each year, depending on the region. In comparison, the average amount of rainfall in the United States each year is 767 mm.

One solution to hunger in Botswana is to focus on creating jobs in the agricultural sector, rather than creating an abundance of food. In 2010, 26.4 percent of employment in Botswana was in the agricultural sector. Only wealthy farmers can afford the fossil fuels necessary for large scale production. Since expensive farming methods increase food prices, Botswana should focus on farming methods that create jobs for more people.

To alleviate hunger in Botswana, the large role that agriculture plays in the economy should not be ignored.

Jennifer Taggart

Photo: Flickr

Botswana
Supported by the discovery of diamonds, poverty in Botswana has reduced while the country has achieved universal access to HIV treatment and strengthened their social services.

Botswana, a small landlocked country of 2 million people, was once one of the poorest countries in Africa. In 1996, the country was one of the least developed and poorest nations in the world with a per capita annual income of $83. In the years that followed, Botswana had one of the fastest growing economies in the world. By the 21st century, Botswana’s per capita annual income was $7,300. The success has come from Botswana’s partnership with De Beers, a diamond mining and trading company, which helped develop its diamond resources.

The diamonds of Botswana are very difficult to find. They are not sedimentary, rather they are found deep in the ground making them more valuable. The country shares joint-ownership, which guarantees Botswana the majority of the profits, with De Beers.

Due to low global demand for minerals and metals, Botswana’s economy began to decrease in 2012, but bounced back in 2013 and then decelerated again in 2014 and 2015; however, the economy is expected to rebound with projected economic growth rates of 3.7% and 4.3% respectively in 2016 and 2017, driven mainly by an improvement in diamond prices.

Once the money from diamonds starts coming in, all the revenues are reinvested in other assets. Priorities include investing in schools, roads, electricity and getting running water into homes and farms.

When the HIV/AIDS crisis came to Botswana, the country used its diamond money for public investment to essentially buy HIV/AIDS treatments for every citizen that was infected. Nearly 95 percent of the population now lives within 8km of a healthy facility.

Botswana’s discovery of the diamond has created more than 2,000 jobs and stabilized the economy. The percentage of people in poverty in Botswana continues to decrease, with a decline in citizens living at or below the poverty line from 50 percent to about 19 percent today.

Jacqueline Venuti

Photo: Flickr