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Botswanas biased laws irk UN

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has come down hard on the Government of Botswana following the release of the 2018 UNHCR report which has portrayed Botswana in bad light over issues of ‘health, education and other basic liberties’ for refugees.

The report is a summary measure for assessing progress in three basic dimensions of human development: a long and healthy life, access to knowledge and a decent standard of living. The report measures development by combining indicators of life expectancy, education attainment, and income. The health component contains two indicators: Anti-Retroviral Therapy access and increased gender based violence.

In terms of the operation context, the report suggests that ever since stating their grievances eight years, refugees in Botswana have yet to see changes, as government has not acted on the issues. The refugees had wanted for government to provide for their basic liberties.
“The asylum space in Botswana remained limited due to the policies restricting refugees and asylum-seekers to Dukwi refugee camp. The strict encampment policy, coupled with the reservation to the right to work, hampered the self-reliance of people of concern and led to increased dependency and social challenges, including harmful coping mechanisms and increased sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV),” says the report.

It also continues to say that asylum-seekers have been detained at the Centres for Illegal Immigrants for indefinite periods of time. “UNHCR continued to advocate for fair and efficient asylum processes as well as the relocation of detained asylum-seekers to Dukwi camp.”
The population trends according to the study shows that in 2017, Botswana hosted 2,480 people of concern to UNHCR, consisting of 2,120 refugees, close to 70 asylum-seekers, and some 290 others of concern. They came mainly from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Namibia and Zimbabwe.

According to the statistics compiled by the organization, 348 refugees with HIV received antiretroviral treatment from donors (ART). “Medical care provided to people of concern by the Government did not include antiretroviral treatment,” stated the report. It further continues, “Refugees did not have access to machine readable convention travel documents, which affected particularly those with medical needs that required travel to outside of the country.”

Permanent Secretary at the ministry of defence justice and security Segakweng Tsiane has differed and agreed with the report. “The government offers refugees ART’s. In terms of education, at the convention we committed that we can only avail education up to basic level,” she said in a brief interview. The exclusion of refugees from the 2010-2015 national strategic plan for HIV and AIDS intervention has been cited as testimony of Botswana’s exclusivist policy regarding alien populations, in particular refugees.

In terms of education the organization is also irked by the stance taken by the government barring refugees from accessing higher schooling. “There is a lack of access to tertiary education for people of concern.” As it stands there are 21 refugee students at Nata Senior who will be sitting for the Botswana General Certificate of Secondary Education (BGCSE) who are facing uncertainty to access tertiary education. UNHCR is also concerned by the fact that it was not able to identify a partner to provide legal support to refugees who are usually subjected to unjust treatment.

The only key achievement the UNHCR has managed to get the Government of Botswana to agree to is that it will review the Refugee and Control Act of 1968. Botswana has lagged behind in updating its Recognition and Control of Refugees’ Act, 1968 to align it with relevant international statutory provisions relating to the protection of asylum seekers and refugees, and asylum seekers in the country are having the worst of it.

Botswana has, however, maintained a hard line, and cites national security as a key factor inhibiting the country from updating existing refugee laws. Botswana’s policy of encampment of refugees, non-mandatory provision of ARV treatment and denial of employment for refugees is informed by the outdated piece of legislation.

As it stands 59 refugees departed under voluntary repatriation, while 12 refugees departed for resettlement. It is noted that 100% of refugees received their monthly food distribution. The refugees on annual basis cost UNHCR P10 million as they are given food rations, school uniform for kids and transport to school.

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is a United Nations programme with the mandate to protect refugees, forcibly displaced communities and stateless people, and assist in their voluntary repatriation, local integration or resettlement to a third country. UNHCR was created in 1950, during the aftermath of World War II. Its headquarters are in Geneva, Switzerland and it is a member of the United Nations Development Group.

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ENVIRONMENT ISSUES: Masisi asks Virginia for help

24th March 2023

President Mokgweetsi Masisi says the issue of sustainable natural resources management has always been an important part of Botswana’s national development agenda.

Masisi was speaking this week on the occasion of a public lecture at Virginia Polytechnic, under theme, “Merging Conservation, Democracy and Sustainable Development in Botswana.”

Botswana, according to Masisi, holds the view that the environment is fragile and as such, must be managed and given the utmost protection to enable the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“It is necessary that we engage one another in the interchange of ideas, perspectives, visualizations of social futures, and considerations of possible strategies and courses of action for sustainable development,” said Masisi.

On the other hand, dialogue, in the form of rigorous democratic discourse among stakeholders presents another basis for reconfiguring how people act on their environments, with a view to conserving its resources that “we require to meet our socio-economic development needs on a sustainable basis,” Masisi told attendees at the public lecture.

He said government has a keen interest in understanding the epidemiology and ecology of diseases of both domestic and wild animals. “It is our national interest to forestall the dire consequences of animal diseases on our communities livelihoods.”

President Masisi hoped that both Botswana and Virginia could help each other in curbing contagious diseases of wildlife.

“We believe that Virginia Tech can reasonably share their experiences, research insights and advances in veterinary sciences and medicines, to help us build capacity for knowledge creation and improve efforts of managing and containing contagious diseases of wildlife. The ground is fertile for entering into such a mutually beneficial partnership.”

When explaining environmental issues further, Masisi said efforts of conservation and sustainable development might at times be hampered by the emergence and recurrence of diseases when pathogens mutate and take host of more than one species.

“Water pollution also kills aquatic life, such as fish, which is one of humanity’s much deserved sources of food. In this regard, One Health Approach imposes ecological responsibility upon all of us to care for the environment and the bio-diversity therein.”

He said the production and use of animal vaccines is an important space and tool for conservation, particularly to deal with trans-border animal diseases.

“In Botswana, our 43-year-old national premier pharmaceutical institution called Botswana Vaccine Institute has played its role well. Through its successful production of highly efficacious Foot and Mouth vaccines, the country is able to contain this disease as well as supply vaccines to other countries in the sub-region.:

He has however declared that there is need for more help, saying “We need more capacitation to deal with and contain other types of microbial that affect both animals and human health.”

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Masisi saddened by deaths of elephant attacks

24th March 2023

President Mokgweetsi Masisi has expressed a strong worry over elephants killing people in Botswana. When speaking in Virginia this week, Masisi said it is unfortunate that Batswana have paid a price with their own blood through being attacked by elephants.

“Communities also suffer unimaginable economic losses yearly when their crops are eaten by the elephants. In spite of such incidents of human-elephant conflict, our people embrace living together with the animals. They fully understand wildlife conservation and its economic benefits in tourism.”

In 2018, Nthobogang Samokwase’s father was attacked by an elephant when travelling from the fields, where he stayed during the cropping season.

It was reported that the man couldn’t run because of his age. He was found trampled by the elephant and was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital.

In the same year, in Maun, a 57-year-old British woman was attacked by an elephant at Boro and died upon arrival at the hospital. The woman was with her Motswana partner, and were walking dogs in the evening.

Last month, a Durban woman named Carly Marshall survived an elephant attack while on holiday in the bush in Botswana. She was stabbed by one of the elephant’s tucks through the chest and was left with bruises. Marshall also suffered several fractured ribs from the ordeal.

President Masisi Botswana has the largest population of African elephants in the world, totaling more than 130 000. “This has been possible due to progressive conservation policies, partnerships with the communities, and investment in wildlife management programmes.”

In order to benefit further from wildlife, Masisi indicated that government has re-introduced controlled hunting in 2019 after a four-year pause. “The re-introduction of hunting was done in an open, transparent and democratic way, giving the communities an opportunity to air their views. The funds from the sale of hunting quota goes towards community development and elephant conservation.”

He stressed that for conservation to succeed, the local people must be involved and derive benefits from the natural resources within their localities.

“There must be open and transparent consultations which involve all sectors of the society. It is against this backdrop that as a country, we lead the continent on merging conservation, democracy and sustainable development.”

Masisi stated that Botswana is open to collaborative opportunities, “particularly with identifiable partners such as Virginia Tech, in other essential areas such as conservation, and the study of the interplay among the ecology of diseases of wild animals and plants, and their effects on human health and socio-economic development.”

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Gov’t commit to injecting more funds in fighting HIV

24th March 2023

Minister for State President Kabo Morwaeng says government will continue to make resources available in terms of financial allocations and human capital to ensure that Botswana achieves the ideal of eradicating HIV and AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.

Morwaeng was speaking this morning in Gaborone at the High-Level Advocacy event to accelerate HIV Prevention in Botswana. He said the National AIDS and Health Promotion Agency (NAPHA), in partnership with UNAIDS, UN agencies, the Global Fund and PEPFAR, have started a process of developing transition readiness plan for sustainability of HIV prevention and treatment programmes.

“It is important for us, as a country that has had a fair share of donor support in the response to an epidemic such as HIV and AIDS, to look beyond the period when the level of assistance would have reduced, or ceased, thus calling for domestic financing for all areas which were on donor support.”

Morwaeng said this is important as the such a plan will guarantee that all the gains accrued from the response with donor support will be sustained until the end when “we reach the elimination of HIV and AIDS as a public health threat by 20230,” he said.

“I commit to continue support efforts towards strengthened HIV prevention, accentuating HIV primary prevention and treatment as prevention towards Zero New Infections, Zero Stigma, Discrimination and Zero AIDS related death, to end AIDS in Botswana.”

He reiterated that government commits to tackle legislative, policy and programming challenges that act as barriers to the achievement of the goal of ending AIDS as a public health threat.

In the financial year 2022/2023, a total of 119 Civil Society Organizations, including Faith Based Organizations, were contracted with an amount of P100 million to implement HIV and NCDs prevention activities throughout the country, and the money was drawn from the Consolidated Fund.

Through an upcoming HIV Prevention Symposium, technical stakeholders will use outcomes to develop the Botswana HIV Prevention Acceleration Road Map for 2023-2025.

Morwaeng stated that government will support and ensure that Botswana plays its part achieving the road map. He said there is need to put hands on the deck to ensure that Botswana sustains progress made so far in the fight against HIV and AIDS.

“There are tremendous achievements thus far to, reach and surpass the UNAIDS fast track targets of 95%- 95%- 95% by the year 2025. As reflected by the BAIS preliminary results of 2021, we now stand at 95- 98- 98 against the set targets.”

“These achievements challenge us to now shift our gears and strive to know who are the remaining 5% for those aware of their HIV status, 2% of enrolment on treatment by those aware of their status and 2% of viral suppression by those on treatment.”

Explaining this further, Morwaeng said shift in gears should extend to coming up with robust strategies of determining where these remaining people are as well as how they will be reached with the necessary services.

“These are just some of the many variables that are required to ensure that as a country, we are well positioned to reaching the last mile of our country’s response to the HIV and AIDS pandemic.”

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