As a new year and a new decade kick off, World Health Organization WHO has released a list of urgent, global health challenges. This list, developed with input from their experts around the world, reflects a deep concern that leaders are failing to invest enough resources in core health priorities and systems.
This puts lives, livelihoods and economies in jeopardy. None of these issues are simple to address, but they are within reach. Public health is ultimately a political choice. WHO says there is a need to realize that health is an investment in the future, adding that countries invest heavily in protecting their people from terrorist attacks, but not against the attack of a virus, which could be far more deadly, and far more damaging economically and socially. A pandemic could bring economies and nations to their knees, which is why health security cannot be a matter for ministries of health alone.
All the challenges in the list demand a response from more than just the health sector, WHO warns. ‘’we face shared threats and we have a shared responsibility to act. With the deadline for the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals quickly approaching, the United Nations General Assembly has underscored that the next 10 years must be the ‘’decade of action’’. This according to WHO means advocating for national funding to address gaps in health systems and health infrastructure, as well as providing support to the most vulnerable countries. Investing now will save lives and money later.
According to the group, infectious diseases like HIV, tuberculosis, viral hepatitis, malaria, neglected tropical diseases and sexually transmitted infections will kill an estimated 4 million people in 2020, most of them poor. Meanwhile, vaccine-preventable diseases continue to kill, such as measles, which took 140 thousand lives in 2019, many of them children. Although polio has been driven to the brink of eradication, there were 156 cases of wild poliovirus last year, the most since 2014.
WHO indicated that the root causes are insufficient levels of financing and the weakness of health systems in endemic countries, coupled with a lack of commitment from wealthy countries. The climate crisis is a health crisis. According to World Health Organization, air pollution kills an estimated 7 million people every year, while climate change causes more extreme weather events, exacerbates malnutrition and fuels the spread of infectious diseases such as malaria.
The same emissions that cause global warming are responsible for more than one-quarter of deaths from heart attack, stroke, lung cancer and chronic respiratory disease. WHO says leaders in both the public and private sectors must work together to clean up air and mitigate the health impacts of climate change.
In 2019, over 80 cities in more than 50 countries committed to WHO’s an air quality guideline, agreeing to align their air pollution and climate policies. This year, the organization will work towards developing a set of policy options for governments to prevents or reduce the health risks of air pollution.
WHO further underscored that last year, most disease outbreaks requiring the highest level of WHO response occurred in countries with protracted conflict. The health organization also saw the continuation of a disturbing trend in which health worker and facilities were targeted. WHO recorded 978 attacks on health care in 11 countries last year, with 193 deaths. At the same time, conflict is forcing record numbers of people out of their own home, leaving tens of millions of people with little access to health care, sometimes for years.
Last year, WHO responded to 58 emergencies in 50 countries, deployed mobile medical teams, improved disease detection and warned systems and conducted vaccination campaigns. The group is working to save lives and prevent suffering by working with countries and partners to strengthen health systems, improving preparedness and expanding the availability of long-term contingency financing for complex health emergencies.
According to a report from the group, persistent and growing socio-economic gaps result in major discrepancies in the quality of people’s health. There’s not only an 18-year difference in life expectancy between rich and poor countries, but also a marked gap within countries and even within cities. Meanwhile, the global rise in non-communicable diseases, such as cancer, chronic respiratory disease and diabetes, has a disproportionately large burden in low and middle-income countries and can quickly drain the resources of poorer households.
It was also underlined that about one-third of the world’s people lack access to medicines, vaccines, diagnostic tools and other essential health products. Low access to quality health products threatens health and lives, which can both endanger patients and fuel drug resistance. Medicines and other health products are the second-largest expenditure for most health systems and the largest component of private health expenditure in low- and middle-income countries.
Every year, as WHO reported, the world spends far more responding to disease outbreaks, natural disasters and other health emergencies than it does preparing for and preventing them. A pandemic of a new, highly infectious, airborne virus- most likely a strain of influenza- to which most people lack immunity is inevitable. It is not a matter of if another pandemic will strike, but when, and when it strikes it will spread fast, potentially threatening millions of lives. Meanwhile, vector-borne diseases likes dengue, malaria, zika, and yellow fever are spreading as mosquito population’s move into new areas, fanned by climate change.
Lack of food, unsafe food and unhealthy diets are responsible for almost one-third of today’s global disease burden. Hunger and food insecurity continue to plague millions, with food shortages being perniciously exploited as weapons of war. At the same time, as people consume foods and drinks high in sugar, saturated fat, Trans fat and salt, overweight, obesity and diet-related diseases are on the rise globally. Meanwhile, tobacco use is declining in a few but rising in most countries, and evidence is building about the health risks of e-cigarettes.
WHO noted that chronic-investment in the education and employment of health workers, coupled with a failure to ensure decent pay, and has led to health workers shortages all over the world. This, it said, jeopardizes health and social care services and sustainable health systems. The world will need 18 million additional health workers by 2030, primarily in low- and middle-income countries, including 9 million nurses and midwives.
To trigger action and encourage investment in education, skills and jobs, the World Health Assembly has designated 2020 the year of the nurse and the midwife. Meanwhile, WHO stressed that more than 1 million adolescents aged 10-19 years die every year. The leading causes of death in this age group are road injury, HIV, suicide, lower respiratory infections and interpersonal violence.
Harmful use of alcohol, tobacco and drug use, lack of physical activity, unprotected sex and previous exposure to child maltreatment all increase the risks for these causes of death. In 2020, WHO will issue new guidance for policymakers, health practitioners and educators, called Helping Adolescents Thrive. The aim is to promote adolescents’ mental health and prevent the use of drugs, alcohol, self-harm and interpersonal violence, as well as provide young people with information on preventing HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, contraception, and care during pregnancy and childbirths.
However, the organization emphasized that new technologies are revolutionizing their ability to prevent, diagnose and treat many diseases. Genome editing, synthetic biology and digital health technologies such as artificial intelligence can solve many problems, but also raise new questions and challenges for monitoring and regulation. Without a deeper understanding of their ethical and social implications, these new technologies, which include the capacity to create new organisms, could harm the people they are intended to help, WHO warns.
The group set up new advisory committees for human genome editing and digital health last year, bringing together the world’s leading experts to review evidence and provide guidance. WHO is also working with countries to enable them to plan, adopt, and benefit from new tools that provide clinical and public health solutions, while supporting better regulation of their development and use.
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.
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.
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.