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.”
Despite being hailed and still regarded as a hero who saved many lives through his decision to crash the BF5 fighter Jet around the national stadium on the eve of the 2018 BDF day, the deceased Pilot, Major Clifford Manyuni’s actions were treated as a letdown within the army, especially by his master-Commander of the Air Arm, Major General Innocent Phatshwane.
Manyuni’s master says he was utterly disappointed with his Pilot’s failure to perform “simple basics.”
Manyuni was regarded as a hero through social media for his ‘colourful exploits’, but Phatshwane who recently retired as the Air Arm Commander, revealed to WeekendPost in an exclusive interview that while he appreciated Batswana’s outpouring of emotions and love towards his departed Pilot, he strongly felt let down by the Pilot “because there was nothing wrong with that Fighter Jet and Manyuni did not report any problem either.”
The deceased Pilot, Manyuni was known within the army to be an upwardly mobile aviator and in particular an air power proponent.
“I was hurt and very disappointed because nobody knows why he decided to crash a well-functioning aircraft,” stated Phatshwane – a veteran pilot with over 40 years of experience under the Air Arm unit.
Phatshwane went on to express shock at Manyuni’s flagrant disregard for the rules of the game, “they were in a formation if you recall well and the guiding principle in that set-up is that if you have any problem, you immediately report to the formation team leader and signal a break-away from the formation.
Manyuni disregarded all these basic rules, not even to report to anybody-team members or even the barracks,” revealed Phatshwane when engaged on the much-publicised 2018 incident that took the life of a Rakops-born Pilot of BDF Class 27 of 2003/2004.
Phatshwane quickly dismisses the suggestion that perhaps the Fighter Jet could have been faulty, “the reasons why I am saying I was disappointed is that the aircraft was also in good condition and well-functioning. It was in our best interest to know what could have caused the accident and we launched a wholesale post-accident investigation which revealed that everything in the structure was working perfectly well,” he stated.
Phatshwane continued: “we thoroughly assessed the condition of the engine of the aircraft as well as the safety measures-especially the ejection seat which is the Pilot’s best safety companion under any life-threatening situation. All were perfectly functional.”
In aircrafts, an ejection seat or ejector seat is a system designed to rescue the pilot or other crew of an aircraft in an emergency. The seat is propelled out of the aircraft by an explosive charge or rocket motor, carrying the pilot with it.”
Manyuni knew about all these safety measures and had checked their functionality prior to using the Aircraft as is routine practice, according to Phatshwane. Could Manyuni have been going through emotional distress of some sort? Phatshwane says while he may never really know about that, what he can say is that there are laid out procedures in aviation guiding instances of emotional instability which Manyuni also knew about.
“We don’t allow or condone emotionally or physically unfit Pilots to take charge of an aircraft. If a Pilot feels unfit, he reports and requests to be excused. We will subsequently shift the task to another Pilot. We do this because we know the risks of leaving an unfit pilot to fly an aircraft,” says Phatshwane.
Despite having happened a day before the BDF day, Phatshwane says the BDF day mishap did not really affect the BDF day preparations, although it emotionally distracted Manyuni’s flying formation squad a bit, having seen him break away from the formation to the stone-hearted ground. The team soldiered on and immediately reported back to base for advice and way forward, according to Phatshwane.
Sharing the details of the ordeal and his Pilots’ experiences, Phatshwane said: “they (pilots) were in distress, who wouldn’t? They were especially hurt by the deceased‘s lack of communication. I immediately called a chaplain to attend to their emotional needs.
He came and offered them counselling. But soldiers don’t cry, they immediately accepted that a warrior has been called, wiped off their tears and instantly reported back for duty. I am sure you saw them performing miracles the following day at the BDF day as arranged.”
Despite the matter having attracted wide publicity, the BDF kept the crash details a distance away from the public, a move that Phatshwane felt was not in the best interest of the army and public.
“The incident attracted overwhelming public attention. Not only that, there were some misconceptions attached to the incident and I thought it was upon the BDF to come out and address those for the benefit of the public and army’s reputation,” he said.
One disturbing narrative linked to the incident was that Manyuni heroically wrestled the ‘faulty’ aircraft away from the endangered public to die alone, a narrative which Phatshwane disputes as just people’s imaginations. “Like I said the Aircraft was functioning perfectly,” he responded.
A close family member has hinted that the traumatised Manyuni family, at the time of their son’s tragedy, strongly accused the BDF ‘of killing their son’. Phatshwane admits to this development, emphasising that “Manyuni’s mother was visibly and understandably in inconsolable pain when she uttered those words”.
Phatshwane was the one who had to travel to Rakops through the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS) aircraft to deliver the sad news to the family but says he found the family already in the know, through social media. At the time of his death, Manyuni was survived by both parents, two brothers, a sister, fiancée and one child. He was buried in Rakops in an emotionally-charged burial. Like his remains, the BDF fighter jets have been permanently rested.
A matter in which former President Lt Gen Ian Khama had brought before Broadhurst Police Station in Gaborone, requesting the State to charge Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) lead investigator, Jako Hubona and others with perjury has been committed to Headquarters because it involves “elders.”
Broadhurst Police Station Commander, Obusitswe Lokae, told this publication this week that the case in its nature is high profile so the matter has been allocated to his Officer Commanding No.3 District who then reported to the Divisional Commander who then sort to commit it to Police Headquarters.