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We hear of the elephants, but what of the communities?

LAWRENCE OOKEDITSE
THE STALLION

The elephants have become a major factor again with the white paper on their management after issues of their overstocking. While it has quickly become a debate between the West and its perceived stooges in Botswana versus ‘patriots’ in Botswana, there is a middle ground to it; a real problem.

That problem is failure or refusal to invest in affected communities. S then, Mr. President, we are happy with the White Paper and your institution of consultations- your people are there were getting the feeling that we cared more about the animals then about them because even in the event of damage they get very little compensation.

The outcry would be less if compensation was commensurate with damage done. It would be less if the same investments tourism safari companies make into protecting their own facilities were being invested by them and government into protecting community assets and installations. But no one seems to care about this.

Our people suffer because they do not have the luxury of encountering these animals from the relative comfort and safety of a safari four wheel drive as do most of those in the West who finished their own animals and are now busy with activism on other nations’ animals. Our people bear the brunt of the wildlife so many of you find fascinating- but our communities are not the major beneficiaries from the money that comes from your glee and fascination with those animals. We do not want them exterminated, but we want a fair deal- that is the view of our people.

I am from a part of the country where elephants routinely do damage. The herds have grown evidently because these days elephants are all over in our area. We are a victim of our own success in a way- larger herds in the wild, being a country that provides relative safe sanctuary against poachers and hunters among others have meant more elephants come to our shores. You hardly ever used to see elephants on your way to Sowa from Dukwi, now they’re a constant feature along that road- whole herds now live here. A stone throw away from these herds you have an utterly impoverished community at Njuutsha.

At Njuutshaa, a lot of people are cattle herders. Many more are unemployed and have to subsist on food rations from government- but these get stopped and started depending on how the local government feels anyway- no one seems to really care. The people here are poor. They are called remote area dwellers even though they are hardly 20 kilometers from Sowa, and just about 15 kilometers or less from Dukwi. The stubborn refusal to bring service to these people, their name tagging and definition as remote by local authorities aside, there is nothing remote about them.

For generations now, this community lived off the land. But the land has now become smaller due to encroachment and the settler colony of the marauding elephants. For our people here, going out in the evening to drive cattle back to their kraals, or going into the wild for tubers and fruit has become a dreaded chore. After all, before going far, you encounter these jumbo mammals. This is not our only affected community- I am pointing out the twin dangers of poverty and neglect of some communities juxtaposed with encroachment by elephants in particular for poor communities. Their problems are only worsened.

And it does not help that most of these herd cattle for absentee cattle barons- and failure to drive cattle back to their corrals overnight may mean stock losses. And stock losses are not taken kindly by employers. In reality then, these communities are seeking a living under already perilous conditions, the addition of elephants to their foibles only worsens their misery. They have become les miserabeles when they ought not to be.

If you think this is a sick joke, go to Manxotae, a village off the shoulder of Nata.  You will find a man named Boipuso who was attacked by an elephant at dusk while returning from securing cattle for the night- today, he depends on food rations form government and is paralyzed from the waist downwards. A productive man has been rendered impotent at just about everything he used to thrive at.

This is the other side of the story, and it is not even the whole story. Ask any farmer who has had a ploughing field raided by elephants. Theirs is to look at what remains but a wasteland and just weep. Weep for you know there will be almost zero compensation from the ‘owners of the animals’ being government. This is where the problem is. In reality, the major problem is not the mere presence of elephants- the problem is the destruction caused and what follows as compensation.

We do not want the elephant killed, we want to be relatively secured from them. We know their value, but we also know their levels of destruction. They roam closer to homes and farms in larger numbers than we have seen before. But we also know the value of wildlife.
Re-introducing hunting in controlled ways would not be a very bad thing to do. It is not ideal, but something must be done. Re-introduce hunting, monitor and then when a certain threshold is reached you stop.

That may traumatize heads as research shows, and my heart breaks. But what could be done? Letting things be as they are is not an option- unless we allow the citizens to fight back as they may if elephants encroach. But as it is, an animal is more protected than a
The Directorate n Intelligence and Security Services (that is what our people at Sepako say) routinely ensnares and severely punish anyone who so much as lifts a finger against a wild animal. The animal is more protected than the people- yet the same animals sometimes raid near DIS camps- and the DIS as per the tales of our people just slumber and won’t make effort to drive the animals away.

Another option is for the tourism industry and the world (since the world so much cares about conservation): pump money into barriers to protect our people. Farms are in designated areas. If government wishes and the world also so wishes, you literally could cordon off farming areas that are at risk- the same way safari companies are able to protect their water installations and other assets from elephants.

So far, we have failed our communities. We have failed to offer farmers compensation for destruction by wild animals. We reap money from tourism as a country and reinvest that money in other parts of the country, but we terribly fail the communities that live with the animals. If some intelligent statistician or economist was to make a breakdown of a portion of investment government puts into our communities you’d find that it’s a pittance compared to other parts of the country.

We live with the animals. We are not allowed to kill them but they have not read the same laws- they kill us and destroy our crops and other valuables. Since they’re owned by government, it would only be fair that government compensation is reasonable. But your cow may be killed by a leopard and they’d give you P300 as compensation- a cow is worth up to P5000 in the open markets.

As mentioned on victims of elephant attacks, the state does nothing for these people that is closing to giving them back their normal lives- they get the usual destitute rations. But they were able bodied and able to provide more for themselves previously. Suddenly they are thrown into destitution by government and her animals. Why then should they care? Tell me. They are hurt and easily get depressed watching life pass them by as a result of some animal attack.

So then, start paying attention to campaigns for better compensation for victims of these animals; pay attention to struggles for better livelihoods for communities who live near or with wildlife. Protect us or allow us to protect and repay ourselves in the event of damage by your animals. We have hearts and we do not want to see animals suffer. But they make us suffer- you have the money and technology to end the suffering but you care more about the money than about victims.

By the way did you know? A dam was to be built at Mosetse. It never was. Big excuse was that the river takes fresh water to The Makgadikgadi pans and damming it would reduce inflows of fresh water and perhaps disturb the wildlife. Utter nonsense. So the people should have hard salty and unpalatable water right? And the animals fresh water? President Masisi has his job cut out for him, but he should know the people out there appreciate the consultations and possibility of finding a good solution.

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Appendicitis: Recognising the Signs

29th March 2022

Many a times I get clients casually walking into my room and requesting to be checked for “appendix”.  Few questions down the line, it is clear they are unaware of where the appendix is or what to expect when one does have it (appendicitis). Jokingly (or maybe not) I would tell them they would possibly not be having appendicitis and laughing as hard as they are doing. On the other hand, I would be impressed that at least they know and acknowledge that appendicitis is a serious thing that they should be worried about.

So, what is Appendicitis?

Appendicitis is an inflammation of the appendix; a thin, finger-like pouch attached to the large intestine on the lower right side of the abdomen. Often the inflammation can be as a result of blockage either by the faecal matter, a foreign body, infection, trauma or a tumour. Appendicitis is generally acute, with symptoms coming on over the course of a day and becoming severe rapidly. Chronic appendicitis can also occur, though rarely. In chronic cases, symptoms are less severe and can last for days, weeks, or even months. 

Acute appendicitis is a medical emergency that almost always ends up in the operating theatre. Though the appendix is locally referred to as “lela la sukiri”, no one knows its exact role and it definitely does not have anything to do with sugar metabolism. Appendicitis can strike at any age, but it is mostly common from the teen years to the 30s.

Signs to look out for

If you have any of the following symptoms, go and see a Doctor immediately! Timely diagnosis and treatment are vital in acute appendicitis;

Sudden pain that starts around the navel and shifts to the lower right abdomen within hours

The pain becomes constant and increases in severity (or comes back despite painkillers)

The pain worsens on coughing, sneezing, laughing, walking or deep breaths

Loss of appetite

Nausea and vomiting

Fever

Constipation or diarrhoea

Abdominal bloating/fullness

Diagnosis

The doctor often asks questions regarding the symptoms and the patient’s medical history. This will be followed up by a physical examination in which the Doctor presses on the abdomen to check for any tenderness, and the location of the pain. With acute appendicitis, pressing on and letting go of the right lower abdomen usually elicits an excruciatingly unbearable pain. Several tests may be ordered to determine especially the severity of the illness and to rule out other causes of abdominal pain. The tests may conditions include: blood tests, a pregnancy test, urinalysis, abdominal  “How do ultrasound scans work?” ultrasound (scan), CT scan or MRI Scan.

Treatment

The gold standard treatment of acute appendicitis is surgical removal of the appendix known as appendectomy. Luckily, a person can live just fine without an appendix! Surgical options include laparoscopy or open surgery and the type will be decided on by the Surgeon after assessing the patient’s condition. Painkillers and antibiotics are also given intravenously usually before, during and after the surgery.

Complications

Appendicitis can cause serious complications such as;

Appendicular mass/abscessIf the appendix is inflamed or bursts, one may develop a pocket of pus around it known as an abscess. In most cases, the abscess will be treated with antibiotics and drained first by placing a tube through one’s abdominal wall into the abscess. The tube may be left in place for a few hours or days while the infection is clearing up but ultimately one would still have surgery to remove the appendix.

Peritonitis – without treatment, the appendix can rupture/burst. The risk of this rises 48–72 hours after symptoms start. A ruptured appendix spreads the infection throughout the abdomen (peritonitis). This is life threatening and requires immediate surgery to remove the appendix and clean the abdominal cavity.

Death – The complications of appendicitis (and appendectomy) can be life threatening, only if the diagnosis has been missed and no proper treatment has been given on time. This is rare though with the evolved medical care.

If you need further advice or treatment please call 4924730, email  HYPERLINK “mailto:info@themedicscentre.co.bw” info@themedicscentre.co.bw or visit www.themedisccentre.co.bw

Antoinette Boima, MBBS, BMedSci, PgDip HIV/AIDS, Cert Aesth Med is the Managing Director of The Medics Centre in Palapye.

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A degree of common sense

7th February 2022

Here’s a news item from last month you may have missed. In December 2021 the University of Staffordshire announced it would be offered a degree course in pantomime! Yes, that’s right, a degree in popular festive entertainment, the Christmas panto.

We used to have one here, put on by the Capitol Players, though it seems to have fallen away in recent times, but the spectacle is still alive and well in the UK, both in local ad-dram (amateur dramatic ) societies and on the London stage and most of the major cities, these latter productions usually featuring at least one big-draw name from the world of show business with ticket prices commensurate with the star’s salary.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the pantomime format, it consists of a raucous mixture of songs and comedy all based around a well-known fairy or folk tale. Aladdin and His Magic Lamp, Cinderella, Jack & The Beanstalk & Dick Whittington are perennial favourites but any well-known tall tale goes. There is no set script, unlike a play, and storyline is just a peg to hang a coat of contemporary, often bawdy, gags on, in what should be a rollicking production of cross dressing – there has to be at least one pantomime dame, played by a man and always a figure of fun, and a Principal Boy, ostensibly the male lead, yet played by an attractive young woman.

As an art form it can trace its roots back to 16th century Italy and the Commedia Del’Arte which used a mélange of music, dance, acrobatics along with a cast of comic stock characters so it has a long and proud theatrical tradition but you have to wonder, does that really qualify it as a suitable subject for a university? Further, what use might any degree be that can be acquired in a single year? And last but not least, how much standing does any degree have which comes from a jumped-up polytechnic, granted university status along with many of its ilk back in 1992, for reasons best known to the government of the time? Even more worrying are the stated aims of the course.

Staffordshire University claims it is a world first and the masters course is aimed at people working inside as well as outside the industry. Students on the course, due to start in September 2022, will get practical training in the art form as well as research the discipline.

“We want to see how far we can take this,” Associate Professor of Acting and Directing Robert Marsden said. The role of pantomime in the 21st Century was also going to be examined, he said, “particularly post Me Too and Black Lives Matter”. Questions including “how do we address the gender issues, how do we tell the story of Aladdin in 2021, how do we get that balance of male/female roles?” will be asked, Prof Marsden added.

Eek! Sounds like Prof. Marsden wants to rob it of both its history and its comedic aspects – well, good luck with that! Of course that isn’t the only bizarre, obscure and frankly time and money-wasting degree course available. Staying with the performing arts there’s Contemporary Circus and Physical Performance at Bath Spa University. Sounds like fun but why on earth would a circus performer need a university degree?

Or how about a Surf Science and Technology degree at Cornwall College (part of the University of Plymouth). Where the one thing you don’t learn is….how to surf!

Then there is a  degree in Floral Design at University Centre Myerscough. No, I hadn’t heard of it either – turns out it’s a college of further education in Preston, a town that in my experience fits the old joke of ‘I went there once…..It was closed’ to a ‘T’!

Another handy (pun intended) art is that of Hand Embroidery BA (Hons), offered at the University for the Creative Arts. Or you could waste away sorry, while away, your time on a course in Animal Behaviour and Psychology. This degree at the University of Chester teaches you about the way animals think and feel. Cockroaches have personalities according to the subject specs– you couldn’t make it up.

Happily all these educational institutes may have to look to their laurels and try to justify their very existence in the near future. In plans announced this week, universities could face fines of up to £500,000 (P750m), be stripped of their right to take student loans or effectively shut down if they cannot get 60 per cent of students into a professional job under a crackdown on ‘Mickey Mouse’ courses. Further, at least 80 per cent of students should not drop out after the first year, and 75 per cent should graduate.

The rules, published by the Office for Students (OfS), aim to eliminate ‘low-quality’ courses by setting new standards & requiring courses to improve their rating in the TEF, the official universities ratings system. Universities not meeting the new standards will not be able to charge full annual fees of £9,250. Unconventional courses that could fall victim to the new rules could include the University of Sunderland’s BA in Fashion Journalism, where students learn essential’ skills such as catwalk reporting and the history of Chanel.  They have only a 40 per cent chance of entering highly skilled work 15 months after leaving.

At University College Birmingham, BSC Bakery and Patisserie Technology students – who learn how to ‘make artisan bread’ – have a 15 per cent chance of a professional job within 15 months. Universities minister Michelle Donelan welcomed the move, saying ‘When students go to university, they do so in the pursuit of a life-changing education, one which helps pave their path towards a highly skilled career. Any university that fails to match this ambition must be held to account.’

OfS found that at 25 universities, fewer than half of students find professional work within 15 months.  Business and management courses at the University of Bedfordshire (14.8 per cent) were among the least likely to lead to graduate-level jobs.  Asked to comment, the University of Sunderland said it always looked ‘to find ways to improve outcomes’; University College Birmingham said data on graduates and definition of ‘professional work’ was limited. I’ll bet it is! As the saying goes, ’what the eye doesn’t see, the heart doesn’t grieve over’. What a pantomime!

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Why regular health checks are important!

7th February 2022

With the world still reeling from the negative impact of the Coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19), and the latest Omicron variant (which is responsible for the ongoing global forth wave) on everyone’s lips, we should not forget and neglect other aspects of our health.

While anyone can get infected with corona virus and become seriously ill or die at any age, studies continue to show that people aged 60 years and above, and those with underlying medical conditions like hypertension, heart and lung problems, diabetes, obesity, cancers, or mental illness are at a higher risk of developing serious illness or dying from covid-19.

It is a good habit to visit a doctor regularly, even if you feel healthy. Regular health checks can help identify any early signs of health issues or assess your risk of future illness hence prompting one to take charge and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Heart disease, diabetes, some cancers and other non-communicable diseases (even communicable) can often be picked up in their early stages, when chances for effective treatment are high.

During a health check, your doctor will take a thorough history from you regarding your medical history, your family’s history of disease, your social life and habits, including your diet, physical activity, alcohol use, smoking and drug intake. S/he will examine you including measuring your weight, blood pressure, feeling your body organs and listening to your heart and lungs amongst the rest. Depending on the assessment, your doctor will notify you how often you need to have a health check. If you have a high risk of a particular health condition, your doctor may recommend more frequent health checks from an early age.

Diet – a healthy diet improves one’s general health and wellbeing. It is recommended that we have at least two serves of fruit and five serves of vegetables daily. Physical activity – regular physical activity has significant health benefits on one’s body, mind & soul. It contributes to preventing and managing non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, cancers and diabetes, reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, enhances thinking, learning, and judgment skills and improves overall well-being. According to the world health organisation (WHO), people who are insufficiently active have a 20% to 30% increased risk of death compared to people who are sufficiently active. Aim for 30 minutes to an hour of moderate physical activity at least four days in a week. Examples of moderate physical activity include brisk walking, gentle swimming and social tennis.

Weight – maintaining a healthy weight range helps in preventing long-term complications like cardiovascular disease, diabetes and arthritis. It is also vital for one’s mental wellbeing and keeping up with normal activities of daily living. Ask your doctor to check your body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference annually. If you are at a higher risk, you should have your weight checked more frequently and a stern management plan in place.

Alcohol – as per WHO reports, alcohol consumption contributes to 3 million deaths each year globally as well as to the disabilities and poor health of millions of people. Healthy drinking entails taking no more than two standard drinks per drinking day with at least two alcohol-free days in a week.

Smoking –Nicotine contained in tobacco is highly addictive and tobacco use is a major risk factor for cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, many different types of cancer, and many other debilitating health conditions. Every year, at least a whopping 8 million people succumb from tobacco use worldwide. Tobacco can also be deadly for non-smokers through second-hand smoke exposure. It is not ‘fashionable’ if it is going to cost you and your loved ones lives! If you are currently smoking, talk to your doctor and get help in quitting as soon as possible to reduce the harm.

Blood pressure: Hypertension is a serious medical condition and can increase the risk of heart, brain, kidney and other diseases. It is a major cause of premature death worldwide, with upwards of 1 in 4 men and 1 in 5 women – over a billion people – having the condition. Have your blood pressure checked annually if it is normal, you are aged under 40 and there is no family history of hypertension. You might need to have it checked more frequently if you are over 40, your blood pressure is on the high side, or you have a personal or family history of high blood pressure, stroke or heart attack. Your doctor will be there to guide you.

Dental care – eating a low-sugar diet and cleaning and flossing the teeth regularly can reduce one’s risk of tooth decay, gum disease and tooth loss. Visit a dentist every six months for a dental examination and professional cleaning, or more frequently as per your dentist’s advice.
Blood tests – annual to five-yearly blood tests may be done to further assess or confirm risk of disease. These may include blood sugar levels, cholesterol levels, kidney function, liver function, tumour markers, among other things. They may be done frequently if there is already an existing medical condition.

Cancer screening – various screening techniques can be done to detect different cancers in their early or pre-cancer stages. These include; skin inspections for any suspicious moles/spots, two-yearly mammograms for those at risk of developing breast cancer, Pap smear or the new Cervical Screening Test (CST) every five years, stool tests and colonoscopy (every five years) for those at most risk of bowel cancer, prostate cancer screening for those at risk (over 45 years of age, family history of cancers etc.). Discuss appropriate tests with your doctor.

Vaccinations – You should discuss with your doctor about the necessary routine immunisation, in particular; the Covid-19 vaccines, an annual flu shot, a five-yearly pneumococcal vaccine if you have never had one or you are immunocompromised and any other boosters that you might need.

If you need further advice or treatment please call 4924730, email HYPERLINK “mailto:info@themedicscentre.co.bw” info@themedicscentre.co.bw or visit www.themedisccentre.co.bw

Antoinette Boima, MBBS, BMedSci, PgDip HIV/AIDS, Cert Aesth Med is the Managing Director of The Medics Centre in Palapye.

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