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Botswana Children’s Hospital first of its kind

Houston, Texas (USA): Unlike dust-blown cities of sub-Saharan Africa, the city of Houston in Texas pumps its blood throughout every vein in and around the medical centre, a 2.1 mile or 5.4 kilometre area strewn with skylines of hospitals, research labs, and health professional schools – it ought to have been named the medical hub.

The men in suits, mostly dark, picked pace and in their strides on the concrete floor was the immeasurable power and authority. The doors flung wide open as they sauntered into a hospital full of children sick with all types of cancer, including that which is malignant as leukaemia (blood cancer). The heavy security escort was about President of Botswana, Mokgweetsi Eric Masisi.

Apart from being told it was a cancer clinic, the beaming faces of these children tell a story totally different from what we are accustomed to in sub-Saharan Africa when patients suffer from debilitating diseases like cancer. Emaciated faces of despair, skin discolouration and skeletal bodies breathing their last are all too common, especially where AIDS and cancer have conspired to set the sun down on Africa’s populations.

The Texas Children’s Hospital has the highest treatment success rate of cancer in the world. In the United States for example, 75 percent of children who are sick from cancer make full recovery, while across sub-Saharan Africa, in every 100, 000 cancer-related illnesses, nearly 90 percent of them succumb.

Research has shown traceable evidence that poor medical facilities to deal with the treatment of the disease that requires expensive state-of-the art equipment, world-class facilities including laboratories for research, as well as the inadequacy of those in the medical field to perform surgical procedures on those suffering from the debilitating conditions, all too often, conspire against the single fighting spirit of the cancer patients in Africa.

In fact, the nation’s best in specialized health care are at Texas Children’s Hospital, for example; Dr Mark Kline – rated the best HIV specialist doctor in the United States and Dr David Poplack, also celebrated as one of top-notch American oncologists. It is worth their mention because these two powerhouses are directly involved in the project that is to be known as the paediatric cancer clinic on the grounds of the University of Botswana, thanks to the gifted donation of $50 million presented by the hand of John Damonti – President of the Brystol-Myers Squibb Foundation, an American pharmaceutical company.

The Foundation is preoccupied with the vision to alleviate pain and suffering brought about by ailments with devastating effects such as AIDS, cancer, diabetes and hepatitis B and C among common diseases in Botswana. They accomplish their objective by capacitating of healthcare workers, integrating medical care and community-based support services as well as mobilizing the communities in the fight against these prevalent diseases.

Over the 15 years since his maiden foray into Botswana’s complex HIV quagmire, Dr Kline saw the set up of the children’s clinic from a mere ward at Princess Marina Hospital named “Bana” to the transformative facility that is today known as “Baylor Children’s Clinic of Excellence”.

Cancer has ramped up in the recent years and has been attributed to the distressing effects of HIV especially among the sexually active populations, where young men present at health centres with skin cancer (Kaposi Sarcoma), while cervical cancer is too common among the young females. The relationship that has existed between Botswana and Texas University has now been taken a notch higher to include cancer with a focus on safeguarding children and securing the future of Botswana.

“This facility will be the best there is in sub-Saharan Africa and a model to emulate by others. Not only will we channel resources to construct state-of-the-art facility, but we commit to making sure that the best in healthcare are sent there to prepare the ground for what will become laser sharp cancer treatment, while strengthening the capacity of your medical officers. We will then pull out and let you run with it,” roared President and CEO of the Texas Children’s Hospital, Mark Wallace who received a standing ovation.

In the words of the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Wellness, Dr Morris Sinvula, the partnership is a huge investment for Botswana that must be harnessed especially the facilities belongs to her after they have imparted the much-needed expertise to save children’s lives.

 “We should embrace this and run with it as quickly as we can. With their help, we did well in managing HIV and we can tap on their expertise and use their model to manage non-communicable diseases,” stated Sinvula on the sidelines of the reception held in honour of President Masisi.

Dr Kline lauded Botswana as the best model throughout the seven countries where they are present in sub-Saharan Africa because of its exceptional political will expressed at the highest level of government, although rising HIV incidences among the adolescents threaten to reverse the gains thus far made. It is this commitment that Dr Kline is excited to work alongside his colleague; Dr Poplack to significantly bring down the mortality rates among children suffering from cancer.

In response, Masisi said over the recent 74 months – Botswana registered 12, 000 cases of cancer (translating to 162 cases every month) – patients who were referred for specialty care at world-class health facilities, mostly in South Africa at a burdensome cost to the taxpayers.

“I stand here tonight to express deep gratitude on behalf of the nation of Botswana to the continued support we receive from the Texas Children’s Hospital. This is a new front. The mandate has been expanded to include cancer, which is quite prevalent these days in our society, and arguably linked to the HIV incidences. But any country that cares about its posterity does not leave its children behind.

It is because of this reason that my presidency would not be complete if I did not make a visit to this incomparable institution, if I may borrow Mr Wallace’s descriptive qualifier. I can assure you that it will not be my last visit. In 2016, I was there when the cheque donation of $50 million was presented at the site where this new facility will be put up. I was there as the vice president. I was there at the groundbreaking ceremony.

And I am here tonight as the president of the country and making a bold commitment that we have made the resolve as a country to set up a subvention fund every year towards the construction of this facility in addition to the generous contributions from the Brystol-Myers Squibb Foundation. I further commit my government to effectively use your investments for the intended purpose.

I make an appeal not only to the businesses in the health sector, but all others who may see it worthy to partner with Botswana to rid us of the scourge of cancer, especially among children. I assure you that we are a country that prides itself on the rule of law and that means respecting ourselves first, and also respecting those outside our borders. It has meant setting up our immigration protocols to treat those visiting our country or considering us as an investment destination with respect that human beings deserve. You have my word as the country’s president,” he stated amidst cheers.

When responding to Michelle D. Garvin’s question during a roundtable discussion this week, Masisi said while the HIV treatment is second to none in Africa, there is constant drain on the economy and in the ultimate; it would not be sustainable to keep every patient on drugs indefinitely.

“Prevention of new infections is the only solution. It will reduce the cost to government. I need to be advised properly as to the timeliness for my proposed motion before Parliament to criminalise inter-generational sex because the patterns show our young people are getting infected from those with longer sexual experience. I just don’t know if bringing it up now before the elections next year will be ideal. But something like this ought to happen,” he chuckled.

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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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