The first ever global trends for adolescent insufficient physical activity show that urgent action is needed to increase physical activity levels in the girls and boys aged 11 to 17 years.
The study, produced by researchers from the World Health Organization WHO, finds that more than 80 per cent of school-going adolescents globally did not meet current recommendations of at least one hour of physical activity per day- including 85 per cent of girls and 78 per cent of boys.
The study- which is based on data reported by 1.6 million 11 to 17-year-old students- finds that across all 146 countries studied between 2001-2016 girls were less active than boys in all but four (Tonga, Samoa, Afghanistan and Zambia). The difference in the proportion of boys and girls meeting the recommendations was greater than 10 percentage points in almost one in three countries in 2016 (29 per cent, 42 of 146 countries), with the biggest gaps seen in the United States of America and Ireland (more than 15 percentage points). Most countries in the study (73 per cent, 107 of 146 countries) saw this gender gap widen between 2001 and 2016 respectively.
The authors say that levels of insufficient physical activity in adolescents continue to be extremely high, compromising their current and future health. ‘’Urgent policy action to increase physical activity is needed now, particularly to promote and retain girls’ participation in physical activity’’ says study author Dr Regina Guthold, WHO.
The health benefits of a physical active lifestyle during adolescence, WHO says include improved cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness, bone and cardio metabolic health, and positive effects on weight. The group further indicated that there is also growing evidence that physical activity has a positive impact on cognitive development and socializing. Current evidence suggests that many of these benefits continue into adulthood.
To achieve these benefits, the WHO recommends for adolescents to do moderate or vigorous physical activity for an hour or more each day. The authors estimated how many 11-to 17-year-olds do not meet this recommendation by analysing data collected through school-based surveys on physical activity levels. The assessment included all types of physical activity, such as time spent in active play, recreation and sports, active domestic chores, walking and cycling or other types of active transportation, physical education and planned exercise.
To improve levels of physical activity among adolescents, the study recommends that urgent scaling up is needed of known affective policies and programmes to increase physical activity in adolescents, as well as multisectoral action to offer opportunities for young people to be active, involving education, urban planning, road safety amongst others. The highest level of society, including national, city and local readers, the group said, should promote the importance of physical activity for the health and well-being of all people, including adolescents.
‘’The study highlights that young people have the right to play and should be provided with the opportunities to realise their right to physical and mental health and wellbeing. Strong political will and action can address the fact that four in every five adolescents do not experience the enjoyment and social, physical and mental health benefits of regular physical activity. Policy makers and stakeholders should be encouraged to act now for the health of this and future young generations’’ says Dr Fiona Bull, co-author of the study.
Physical activity trends show slight improvement for boys, none for girls, the study confirms. The new study estimated for the first time how trends changed between 2001-2016- applying the trends from 73 countries who did repeat surveys during that period to all 146 countries. Globally, the prevalence of insufficient physical activity slights decreased in boys between 2001 and 2016, from 80 per cent to 78 per cent, but there was no change over time in girls, remaining around 85 per cent.
The authors note that if these trends continue, the global target of a 15 per cent relative reduction in insufficient physical activity- which would lead to a global prevalence of less than 70 per cent by 2030- will not be achieved. This target was agreed to by all countries at the World Health Assembly in 2018.
In 2016, Philippines was the country with the highest prevalence of insufficient activity aiming boys at 93 per cent, whereas South Korea showed highest levels among girls at 97 per cent, and both genders combined at 94 per cent. Bangladesh was the country with the lowest prevalence of insufficient physical activity among boys, girls and both genders combined (63 per cent, 69 per cent and 66 per cent respectively), the study said.
Some of the lowest levels of insufficient activity in boys were found in Bangladesh, India and the USA. The authors note that the lower levels of insufficient physical activity in Bangladesh and India (where 63 per cent and 72 per cent of boys were insufficiently active in 2016, respectively) may be explained by the strong focus on national sports like cricket. However, the US rates (64 per cent) may be driven by good physical education in schools, pervasive media coverage of sports, and good availability of sports clubs such as ice hockey, American football, basketball or baseball.
For girls, the study said the lowest levels of insufficient activity were seen in Bangladesh and India, and are potentially explained by societal factors, such as increased domestic chores in the home of girls. ‘’The trend of girls being less active than boys is concerning. More opportunities to meet the needs and interests of girls are needed to attract and sustain their participation in physical activity through adolescence and into adulthood’’. To increase physical activity for young people, the group advised that governments need to identify and address the many causes and inequities- social, economic, cultural, technological and environmental- that can perpetuate the differences between boys and girls.
‘’Countries must develop or update their policies and allocate the necessary resources to increase physical activity. Policies should increase all forms of physical activity, including through physical education that develops physical literacy, more sports, active play and recreation opportunities- as well as providing safe environments so young people can walk and cycle independently. Comprehensive action requires engagement with multiple sectors and stakeholders, including schools, families, sport and recreation providers, urban planners, and city leaders’’ said Dr Bull.
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.