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Botswana study links La Nina to increased diarrhoea cases

A study carried out in Botswana by the US-based Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health scientists has found that spikes in cases of life-threatening diarrhoea in young children are associated with La Niña climate conditions.

The findings published in the journal Nature Communications could provide the basis for an early-warning system that would allow public health officials to prepare for periods of increased diarrhoea cases as long as seven months ahead of time. It said in low- and middle-income countries, diarrhoea is the second leading cause of death in children younger than five years of age, with 72 percent of deaths occurring in the first two years of life. 

Rates of under five diarrhoea in Africa are particularly high, with an estimated incidence of 3.3 episodes of diarrhoea per child each year and one-quarter of all child deaths caused by diarrhoea. The El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is a coupled ocean-atmosphere system spanning the equatorial Pacific Ocean that oscillates in a 3-to-7-year cycle between two extremes, El Niño (warmer ocean temperatures) and La Niña (cooler ocean temperatures).

The ENSO cycle affects local weather patterns around the world, including temperatures, winds, and precipitation. Researchers analysed associations between ENSO and climate conditions and cases of under five diarrhea in the Chobe region in northeastern Botswana.
They found that La Niña is associated with cooler temperatures, increased rainfall, and higher flooding during the rainy season. In turn, La Niña conditions lagged 0–7 months are associated with about a 30-percent increase in incidence of under-5 diarrhea in the early rainy season from December through February.

“These findings demonstrate the potential use of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation as a long-lead prediction tool for childhood diarrhea in southern Africa,” says first author Alexandra K. Heaney, a former doctoral student in environmental health sciences at Columbia Mailman and now a postdoctoral student at the University of California, Berkeley. “Advanced stockpiling of medical supplies, preparation of hospital beds, and organisation of health care workers could dramatically improve the ability of health facilities to manage high diarrhoeal disease incidence.”

Previously, El Niño events have been linked to diarrhoea outbreaks in Peru, Bangladesh, China, and Japan, but until now studies of the effects of ENSO on diarrhoeal disease in Africa have been limited to cholera — a pathogen responsible for only a small fraction of diarrhoeal cases in Africa. Infectious diarrhoea is caused by many different pathogens (viruses, bacteria, and protozoa) and meteorological conditions can have a critical influence on pathogen exposures, in particular, those associated with waterborne transmission.

For example, extreme rainfall events may contaminate drinking water by flushing diarrhoea-causing pathogens from pastures and dwellings into drinking water supplies, and drought conditions can concentrate animal activity increasing the movement of diarrhoea – causing pathogens into surface water resources.

The researchers speculated that the centralised water disinfection processes currently used in the Chobe region may be insufficient to deal with changes in water quality brought on by extremes of wet and dry weather, although they caution that further confirmatory studies are needed. Earlier research by the Columbia Mailman researchers in the Chobe region found that cases of diarrhoea in young children spiked during extreme climate conditions, in both the wet and dry seasons.

A second study reported on a method to forecast childhood diarrhoeal disease there. Because climate conditions vary from region to region, forecasts for infectious diseases must be region-specific. In other studies, the team of scientists has created forecasts for influenza, Ebola, and West Nile Virus. During the influenza season in the United States, they publish weekly regional forecasts with predictions on whether cases are expected to rise or fall and by how much.

Research into links between climate systems and infectious disease in Botswana also provides insights into long-term changes in weather patterns coming as a result of climate change. “In Southern Africa, precipitation is projected to decrease,” says Jeffrey Shaman, professor of environmental health sciences at the Columbia Mailman School.

This change, in a hydrologically dynamic region where both wildlife and humans exploit the same surface water resources, may amplify the public health threat of waterborne illness. For this reason, there is an urgent need to develop the water sector in ways that can withstand the extremes of climate change.”

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Khan: Boko, Masisi are fake politicians

18th January 2021
Masisi & Boko

While there is no hard-and-fast rule in politics, former Molepolole North Member of Parliament, Mohamed Khan says populism acts in the body politic have forced him to quit active partisan politics. He brands this ancient ascription of politics as fake and says it lowers the moral compass of the society.

Khan who finally tasted political victory in the 2014 elections after numerous failed attempts, has decided to leave the ‘dirty game’, and on his way out he characteristically lashed at the current political leaders; including his own party president, Advocate Duma Boko. “I arrived at this decision because I have noticed that there are no genuine politics and politicians. The current leaders, Boko and President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi are fake politicians who are just practicing populist politics to feed their egos,” he said.

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Ookeditse rejects lobby for BPF top post

18th January 2021
LAWRENCE-OOKEDITSE

Former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary hopeful, Lawrence Ookeditse has rejected the idea of taking up a crucial role in the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) Central Committee following his arrival in the party this week. According to sources close to development, BPF power brokers are coaxing Ookeditse to take up the secretary general position, left vacant by death of Roseline Panzirah-Matshome in November 2020.

Ookeditse’s arrival at BPF is projected to cause conflicts, as some believe they are being overlooked, in favour of a new arrival. The former ruling party strategist has however ruled out the possibility of serving in the party central committee as secretary general, and committed that he will turn down the overture if availed to him by party leadership.

Ookeditse, nevertheless, has indicated that if offered another opportunity to serve in a different capacity, he will gladly accept. “I still need to learn the party, how it functions and all its structures; I must be guided, but given any responsibility I will serve the party as long as it is not the SG position.”

“I joined the BPF with a clear conscious, to further advance my voice and the interests of the constituents of Nata/Gweta which I believe the BDP is no longer capable to execute.” Ookeditse speaks of abject poverty in his constituency and prevalent unemployment among the youth, issues he hopes his new home will prioritise.

He dismissed further allegations that he resigned from the BDP because he was not rewarded for his efforts towards the 2019 general elections. After losing in the BDP primaries in 2018, Ookeditse said, he was offered a job in government but declined to take the post due to his political ambitions. Ookeditse stated that he rejected the offer because, working for government clashed with his political journey.

He insists there are many activists who are more deserving than him; he could have chosen to take up the opportunity that was before him but his conscious for the entire populace’s wellbeing held him back. Ookeditse said there many people in the party who also contributed towards party success, asserting that he only left the BDP because he was concerned about the greater good of the majority not individualism purposes.

According to observers, Ookeditse has been enticed by the prospects of contesting Nata/Gweta constituency in the 2024 general election, following the party’s impressive performance in the last general elections. Nata/Gweta which is a traditional BDP stronghold saw its numbers shrinking to a margin of 1568. BDP represented by Polson Majaga garnered 4754, while BPF which had fielded Joe Linga received 3186 with UDC coming a distant with 1442 votes.

There are reports that Linga will pave way for Ookeditse to contest the constituency in 2024 and the latter is upbeat about the prospects of being elected to parliament. Despite Ookeditse dismissing reports that he is eying the secretary general position, insiders argue that the position will be availed to him nevertheless.

Alternative favourite for the position is Vuyo Notha who is the party Deputy Secretary General. Notha has since assumed duties of the secretariat office on the interim basis. BPF politburo is expected to meet on 25th of January 2020, where the vacancy will be filled.

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BDP cancels MPs retreat

18th January 2021
President Masisi

Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) big wigs have decided to cancel a retreat with the party legislators this weekend owing to increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases. The meeting was billed for this weekend at a place that was to be confirmed, however a communique from the party this past Tuesday reversed the highly anticipated meeting.

“We received a communication this week that the meeting will not go as planned because of rapid spread of Covid-19,” one member of the party Central Committee confirmed to this publication.
The gathering was to follow the first of its kind held late last year at party Treasurer Satar Dada’s place.

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