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COVID-19 vaccination: Botswana on the edge


Botswana may find herself in an undesirable state of ‘so near yet so far’ should she fail to speed up the rollout for her vaccination programme as it is just one percent shy of the World Health Organisation (WHO) target.

WHO wants countries to vaccinate at least 10 percent of their populations by the end of September this year. This is according to information compiled by Johns Hopkins University and the WHO and released this week.

Data from Johns Hopkins University shows that Botswana is among 43 countries falling short of the World Health Organisation’s goal of fully vaccinating at least 10% of their population by the end of September as of Thursday this week. According to data from Hopkins University, Botswana has only managed to vaccinate at least 9.02 percent of its entire population.

The World Health Organisation hoped to get 10 percent of people in Africa vaccinated against the COVID-19 by the end of September. But WHO Regional Director Matshidiso Moeti was pessimistic as she noted that the target has now proven to be unrealistic.

Speaking to journalists on Thursday via a virtual press conference, Moeti said the 10 percent target has now proved unrealistic. On a related matter, Moeti said the Delta variant was detected for over 70% of samples sequenced from Botswana and other countries such as Malawi and South Africa and almost all samples from Zimbabwe, over 90 %.

Delta variant is linked to more severe COVID-19 cases, and it is highly transmissible. In Botswana, the Delta variant was reportedly responsible for the loss of hundreds of lives in recent weeks. Botswana has also announced that it has since discovered C.1.2 variant.

Moeti said, “scientists are also tracking C.1.2 – a variant that has been found in 130 cases in 10 countries globally, including five African countries where more than 90% of the cases are occurring, mainly in South Africa. While the variant has some concerning mutations, there is no evidence yet that it is more transmissible nor that it affects vaccine efficacy.”

According to Moeti, the good news is that weekly COVID-19 cases in Africa fell by more than 20% in recent weeks. President Masisi echoed this in a televised address wherein he informed the nation that “as of 14th August, we had 13,380 active cases translating to more than 1000 cases per day with a positivity rate of 27%.

By 30th August, active cases had dropped to 5,146 and daily cases halved with a positivity rate at 9%, nearly a threefold decrease.” Masisi also added that Botswana was witnessing a “significant decrease in hospital admissions with a 70% decline in patients admitted into our COVID-19 treatment facilities.”

But Botswana could reach the WHO target if she plays her card right. In his televised address to the nation, President Masisi revealed that the country was expecting “1,00,9 974 doses, comprising Sinovac, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and Moderna…to be delivered during the month of September.”

Meanwhile, the COVAX facility, which Botswana hopes to receive at least vaccines enough to vaccinate 20% of its population, has revised its shipment forecast for the rest of the year downwards by 255.

In an updated forecast, COVAX said that while Q4 (fourth quarter) will see a dramatic increase in deliveries, the latest forecast reflects a reduction in the number of doses that COVAX is expected to receive in 2021. COVAX adds, “the three primary reasons for this are export restrictions, scale-up challenges at manufacturing sites that supply COVAX and the timing and likelihood of filling and regulatory approval for candidates produced Novax, SII-Novax, and Clover, with WHO Emergency Use Licensing (EUL) or approval by a Stringent Regulatory Authority (SRA) required for supply to COVAX participants.”


Mental health concern amid COVID-19 pandemic 

24th September 2021
Mental Health

With the advent of COVID-19, mental health and psychosocial has become a major concern around the world. There is   significant increase in the rates of stress, anxiety and depression globally.

In creating awareness and support on mental health and psychosocial support, the Ministry of Local Government & Rural Development, through the Department of Social Protection (DSP) hosted a virtual regional mental health and Psychosocial Support Forum (MHPSS).

The MHPSS Forum brings together stakeholders from different sectors providing Mental Health and Psychosocial Support services particularly to children, youth, families and the workforce, as well as Academia, International Cooperating Partners, Community Implementing Partners and the media.

It aims to facilitate learning, information exchange and advocacy to promote mainstreaming of Mental Health and Psycho-Social Support (PSS) into policies, programmes, services and funding priorities for children and youth in Botswana.

The event is a partnership between The Ministry of Local Government & Rural Development, through the Department of Social Protection (DSP), and the Regional Psychosocial Support Initiative (REPSSI), with Project Concern International Botswana (PCI) and Marang Child Care Network Trust (MCCNT).

The event is held every two years, and Botswana started hosting the Forum in 2014. The theme for this year is ‘Innovate, Integrate, Thrive,’ which prompts us to find new ways to survive the COVID-19 pandemic which we can mainstream into our daily activities.

The Northern Regional Forum in Mahalapye was held on 17-19 August 2021 while the Southern Regional Forum  in  Ghanzi, was  from 21-23 September 2021. Findings from both regions will be presented at the National Forum to be held in Kasane on 12-14 October 2021. The event is held in collaboration with local authorities in each region.

The event is structured in this manner: The first day is a Special Session for Children, where children in the region will talk about the challenges they face that affect their mental health, how they cope and what they think can be done to support them.

The second day is the official opening where the lead ministry gives a keynote address, and presentations from service providers in the region. The third and last day is abstract presentations from different speakers on thematic areas under the theme.

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GMES & Africa Southern Africa to hold a Regional Stakeholder Workshop on Earth Observation Technologies

24th September 2021

The Southern African Science Service Centre for Climate Change and Adaptive Land Management (SASSCAL) in collaboration with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) will hold a Hybrid GMES and Africa Regional workshop from 27 – 29 September 2021, at Safari Hotel in Windhoek, Namibia.

The Global Monitoring for Environment and Security and Africa (GMES & Africa) Initiative is a programme formed out of mutual cooperation between Africa and Europe with a focus on Earth Observation (EO) systems.

It was formed to respond to the global need to manage the environment, understand and mitigate the effects of climate change and ensure civil security by providing information to policymakers, scientists, private sector and the public. GMES and Africa aims to promote development of local capacities, institutional, human and technical resources for access to and exploitation of Earth Observation (EO) based services on an operational basis for sustainable development in Africa.

In its first phase, GMES has funded 13 consortiums in Africa. In Southern African, SASSCAL-led consortia is implementing the Wetland Monitoring and Assessment Service for Transboundary Basins in Southern Africa (WeMAST) Project while CSIR is leading the Marine and Coastal Operations for Southern Africa (MARCO[1]South). SASSCAL Members of the consortium include the University of Botswana, University of Zambia, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, University of the Western Cape and Midlands State University, South African National Space Agency (SANSA) and the National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC) of Zambia.

CSIR led consortium includes ABALOBI, Benguela Current Convention, Coastal Oceans Research and Development in the Indian Ocean, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, National Sea Rescue Institute, University of Dar Es Salaam, University of Eduardo Mondlane and the Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association).

The workshop will also provide an opportunity to promote and encourage mutual exchanges in terms of sharing best practices, knowledge and experiences as well as allow for the exchange of information and knowledge on new and innovative Earth Observation technologies developed under the programmes and their alignment with the region’s sustainable development strategies.

The workshop will also reveal trends in the use of earth observation data to monitor and assess wetland conditions, threats to sustainable utilisation of wetland resources as well as updating stakeholders on how climate change variability and drought is continually affecting Sub-Saharan Africa’s surface water resources.

The workshop’s envisaged outcomes will be to ensure shared knowledge and understanding of the new and innovative Earth Observation technologies, and their application to society. Expected to visit is a broader pool of international delegates from the two continents (Europe and Africa) both physically and virtual.

This includes the member countries policy makers, line ministers from the SADC countries, public and private sector stakeholders, implementers, Basin Commissions, researchers, and any other stakeholders whose activities are related to coastal areas, rivers, and their ecosystems.

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Vendors ready for the Tobacco Control Bill

21st September 2021

Some vendors have been misled
Vendors thrive on households goods and fresh produce

Despite the previous false allegations that the Tobacco Control Bill will lead to several 20 000 vendors across the country losing their jobs, several local vendors have expressed that they are ready for the bill and because vendors sell mostly household goods

“This is something that we openly accept and receive as street vendors, the problem is some of our counterparts were misled and made to believe that we will not be allowed to sell cigarettes on our stalls.

Some of us got to understand that the bill states that we have to be licensed to sell cigarettes, we are not supposed to sell them to children under the age of 18 years of age and eliminating the selling of single sticks. We understand that this agenda is meant to develop a healthy nation but not take us down,” said Mbimbi Tau a vendor who operates from Mogoditshane.

The Tobacco Control Bill has been passed in several countries and street vendors are operating properly without any challenges faced. Tau further mentioned that there is no way that the Tobacco Control Bill will affect their business operations, all they have to do as vendors are to get the required documentation and do what the bill requires.

Another vendor Busani Selalame who operates from Gaborone Bonnington North was not shy to express his support towards the Tobacco Control Bill, “the problem is that some people within our sector have been misled and now they think that the bill is meant to take our operations down and completely stop selling cigarettes.

I support the fact that we are not supposed to sell cigarettes to children who are under the age of 18 years of age this has always been wrong, as parents we should be cautious of such and ensure that our children are disassociated with cigarettes,” said Selalame.

The Tobacco Control Bill prohibits advertising, promotion and sponsorship by the tobacco industry to prevent messages, cues, and other inducements to begin using tobacco, especially among the youth, to reassure users to continue their use, or that otherwise undermine quitting.

Renowned economist Bakang Ntshingane is of the view that since vendors sell household goods and fresh produce they are likely to keep on making profits despite what the Tobacco Control Bill comes with. He further stated that the Tobacco Control Bill will not be of harm on the local economy since the country does not manufacture or produce any tobacco related products.

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