CONTAMINATION: A report from a research shared by a University of Botswana (UB) scientist at the Southern and Eastern African Network of Analytical Chemists (SEANAC) conference in July this year indicates that Gaborone waste water contains ARV drugs. Should it be augmented into portable water in the near future as per the suggestions of the authorities, scientists say there is urgent need to develop mechanisms to separate the pharmaceuticals.
Researchers press panic buttons over ARVs traces in Gaborone water
Study discovers ARVs in Glen Valley Wastewater treatment Plant
Wastewater expected to augment potable water supplies to Greater Gaborone
More than 269 100 people currently on medication in Botswana
Professors call for methods to separate ARVs from waste water
With more than 269 100 people currently on Anti-Retroviral Drugs (ARVs) medication in Botswana, a new challenge has emerged – the pharmaceuticals are finding their way into the waste water which is expected to be augmented with potable water in future.
A report from a research shared by a University of Botswana (UB) scientist at the Southern and Eastern African Network of Analytical Chemists (SEANAC) conference in July this year indicates that Gaborone waste water contains ARV drugs.
The life expectancy of people infected with HIV in Botswana has significantly increased over the years as Batswana embraced the use of ARV’s. Thousands of HIV positive people live long fulfilling lives due to ARV treatment. Currently more than two hundred and sixty thousand people are on ARV medication in Botswana. This has led to the unintended consequence of these ARV drugs to accumulate in waste water after being passed out as excreta by individuals who are taking ARV medication.
Scotch Ndlovu, a PhD student at the University of Botswana was alerted to the fact that there was an intention to use treated effluent from the Glen Valley Waste Water Treatment Plant to augment potable water supplies to Greater Gaborone. This led him carrying out research on the separation and quantification of ARV drugs in waste water. His work was done under the supervision of Prof. K. Sichilongo and Dr H. Okatch.
“The reclamation of treated effluent from the Glen Valley Wastewater Treatment Plant is expected to augment potable water supplies to Greater Gaborone which, like the rest of the country, suffers periodic shortages….” Ndlovu states in his presentation. The presence of these ARV’s in wastewater means that there is need to develop libraries/database of the quantities of these emerging pollutants in the waste water, he says.
Ndlovu’s research was primarily focused on developing a method to better analyse the presence of different classes of ARV’s. Determining the presence of ARV’s was merely an outcome of the main focus, though it was anticipated that they would be.
Ndlovu stresses that it is important to develop precise analytical methods of ARV detection in water to ensure no traces leach into water meant for human consumption. In as much as ARV’s being present in waste water was unforeseen it is unclear what implications this might have on the environment or health of people should they be exposed to contaminated water.
Both Kenya and South Africa have reported incidents of ARV’s and other pharmaceuticals being present in tap water as a result of failure to adequately process waste water. According to the UB researcher it is imperative to develop and validate an LC-MS method that can simultaneously separate and quantify tenofovir, emtricitabine, efavirenz, lopinavir and ritonavir – all ARV components – in wastewater.
Although Ndlovu and his supervisors managed to develop an LC-MS method that can simultaneously separate and quantify tenofovir, emtricitabine, efavirenz, lopinavir and ritonavir, the UB scientists are of the view that there is need to apply the method in the quantification of these drugs in waste water (at various stages in the treatment cycle).
The most obvious risk of these pharmaceuticals in drinking water is that Batswana will be exposed to greater risks of developing resistance to certain drugs.
Government is currently sitting on 4 400 vacant posts that remain unfilled in the civil service. This is notwithstanding the high unemployment rate in Botswana which has been exacerbated by the recent outbreak of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.
Just before the burst of COVID-19, official data released by Statistics Botswana in January 2020, indicate that unemployment in Botswana has increased from 17.6 percent three years ago to 20.7 percent. “Unemployment rate went up by 3.1 percentage between the two periods, from 17.6 to 20.7 percent,” statistics point out.
Leading commercial bank, First National Bank Botswana (FNBB), expects the central bank to sharpen its monetary policy knife and cut the Bank Rate twice in the last quarter of 2020.
The bank expects a 25 basis point (bps) in the beginning of the last quarter, which is next month, and another shed by the same bps in December, making a total of 50 bps cut in the last quarter. According to the bank’s researchers, the central bank is now holding on to 4.25 percent for the time being pending for more informed data on the economic climate.
An audit of the accounts and records for the supply of food rations to the institutions in the Northern Region for the financial year-ended 31 March 2019 was carried out. According to Auditor General’s report and observations, there are weaknesses and shortcomings that were somehow addressed to the Accounting Officer for comments.
Auditor General, Pulane Letebele indicated on the report that, across all depots in the region that there had been instances where food items were short for periods ranging from 1 to 7 months in the institutions for a variety of reasons, including absence of regular contracts and supplier failures. The success of this programme is dependent on regular and reliable availability of the supplies to achieve its objective, the report said.
There would be instances where food items were returned from the feeding centers to the depots for reasons of spoilage or any other cause. In these cases, instances had been noted where these returns were not supported by any documentation, which could lead to these items being lost without trace.
The report further stressed that large quantities of various food items valued at over P772 thousand from different depots were damaged by rodents, and written off.Included in the write off were 13 538 (340ml) cartons of milk valued at P75 745. In this connection, the Auditor General says it is important that the warehouses be maintained to a standard where they would not be infested by rodents and other pests.
Still in the Northern region, the report noted that there is an outstanding matter relating to the supply of stewed steak (283×3.1kg cans) to the Maun depot which was allegedly defective. The steak had been supplied by Botswana Meat Commission to the depot in November 2016.
In March 2017 part of the consignment was reported to the supplier as defective, and was to be replaced. Even as there was no agreement reached between the parties regarding replacement, in 51 October 2018 the items in question were disposed of by destruction. This disposal represented a loss as the whole consignment had been paid for, according to the report.
“In my view, the loss resulted directly from failure by the depot managers to deal with the matter immediately upon receipt of the consignment and detection of the defects. Audit inspections during visits to Selibe Phikwe, Maun, Shakawe, Ghanzi and Francistown depots had raised a number of observations on points of detail related to the maintenance of records, reconciliations of stocks and related matters, which I drew to the attention of the Accounting Officer for comments,” Letebele said in her report.
In the Southern region, a scrutiny of the records for the control of stocks of food items in the Southern Region had indicated intermittent shortages of the various items, principally Tsabana, Malutu, Sunflower Oil and Milk which was mainly due to absence of subsisting contracts for the supply of these items.
“The contract for the supply of Tsabana to all depots expired in September 2018 and was not replaced by a substantive contract. The supplier contracts for these stocks should be so managed that the expiry of one contract is immediately followed by the commencement of the next.”
Suppliers who had been contracted to supply foodstuffs had failed to do so and no timely action had been taken to redress the situation to ensure continuity of supply of the food items, the report noted.
In one case, the report highlighted that the supplier was to manufacture and supply 1 136 metric tonnes of Malutu for a 4-months period from March 2019 to June 2019, but had been unable to honour the obligation. The situation was relieved by inter-depot transfers, at additional cost in transportation and subsistence expenses.
In another case, the contract was for the supply of Sunflower Oil to Mabutsane, where the supplier had also failed to deliver. Examination of the Molepolole depot Food Issues Register had indicated a number of instances where food items consigned to the various feeding centres had been returned for a variety of reasons, including food item available; no storage space; and in other cases the whole consignments were returned, and reasons not stated.
This is an indication of lack of proper management and monitoring of the affairs of the depot, which could result in losses from frequent movements of the food items concerned.The maintenance of accounting records in the region, typically in Letlhakeng, Tsabong, and Mabutsane was less than satisfactory, according to Auditor General’s report.
In these depots a number of instances had been noted where receipts and issues had not been recorded over long periods, resulting in incorrect balances reflected in the accounting records. This is a serious weakness which could lead to or result in losses without trace or detection, and is a contravention of Supplies Regulations and Procedures, Letebele said.
Similarly, consignments of a total of 892 bags of Malutu and 3 bags of beans from Tsabong depot to different feeding centres had not been received in those centres, and are considered lost. These are also not reflected in the Statement of Losses in the Annual Statements of Accounts for the same periods.