Finishing the job on HIV/AIDS
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a renewed need for domestic and donor support to end the HIV-AIDS pandemic as a global health threat.
This requires a strong emphasis on galvanizing political and programmatic leadership to sustain the response, centering programs on health equity, sustainably strengthening public health systems and health security.
Top Priorities for the Continent in 2023 Foresight Africa report has come up with concrete solutions to ending the pandemic. The HIV/AIDS pandemic had been ranging worldwide with an acute impact on most countries in Africa.
The spread of the disease was impacting every dimension of society- in African countries most affected, AIDS had lowered life expectancy of adults on average by 20 years.
In 2001, the Heads of State of Africa met in a special summit in Abuja devoted specifically to addressing the exceptional challenges of HIV/AIDS.
The Abuja Summit concluded with Heads of State committing to take personal responsibility and provide political leadership at the highest level to commit all necessary resources and measures to attack the epidemic, from pledging 15% of budgets to the health sector, providing access to affordable treatment, scaling-up educational efforts as well as reforming national policies.
Analyzing US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) recipient countries with similar non-PEPFAR supported low- and middle-income countries, found that PEPFAR countries experienced 35% greater reductions in child mortality, 25% reductions in maternal mortality and significant improvements in childhood immunizations.
According to the report, African policymakers have a unique role to play in responding to the HIV/AIDS pandemic. They have to elevate HIV/AIDS to the highest levels of political leadership to sustain the response.
Over the next decade, HIV/AIDS programs should primarily become the responsibility of African countries as support from outside donors inevitably declines, even as PEPFAR continues its commitment to partner countries, the report said.
“This should start with clear political commitments from Heads of States to lead and manage their own HIV response- by articulating and acting on their own vision and holding their ministries accountable for the results. This will help unlock grater programmatic leadership for the oversight and management of HIV prevention and care efforts, and the broader strengthening of health systems that underpin the HIV-AIDS programs.”
Improving health equity for priority populations is also one key role that the policymakers have to pay attention to, in order to end the HIV/AIDS crisis.
In this report, it has been said that governments need to recommit to providing holistic, multi-layered support and enabling policy environments that meet the needs of girls and women given the intersecting challenges they face that increase the risk for contracting HIV.
“This includes ensuring that they can stay in school, access economic opportunities to earn livable incomes, receive comprehensive destigmatized sexual and reproductive health services like PrEP, and thrive in their daily lives free from violence.”
The report indicated that children remain less likely than their adult counterparts to receive treatment, despite the existence of highly effective pediatric treatments in the form of dolutegravir.
“This gap is unacceptable, and the seven countries that make up the roughly 80% of these missing children (DRC, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia) should double down on the funding and management of preventing mother to child transmission (PMTCT) and care linkage programming.”
It was reported that key populations continue to bear the highest per capita risk of contracting an HIV infection. “Governments and donors need to bring key populations and community organizations in the lead to inform the design and expansion of equitable and nondiscriminatory prevention, testing and treatment services. Governments also need to look critically at the restrictive laws and policies that criminalize or stigmatize these populations.”
Leveraging the PEPFAR platform to strengthen public health systems and health security has been hailed as an important component too. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the report states, public health infrastructure, relationships and practices that PEPFAR has helped to establish and strengthen for HIV proved essential to responding to new and unexpected health threats.
The COVID-19 pandemic, according to the report, demonstrated the need for a robust regionally diversified, sustainable pharmaceutical manufacturing and supply chain ecosystems to protect against health security threats, including in Africa.
“A strong, diversified and sustainable manufacturing base would also decrease procurement costs, prevent stockouts, introduce new products faster and create substantial economic benefits.”
Between 70-90% of drugs consumed in Africa are imported, the report said. For Africa to address the challenge, there is need for a holistic approach and an enabling environment for sustainable regional manufacturing that allow manufacturers to supply multi-country geographies, promote healthy competition and enables sizeable, sustainable manufacturers to emerge.
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The roles of PAP committees explained
Permanent Committees of the Pan African Parliament facilitate the effective implementation of the policies and objectives of the OAU/AEC.
The PAP Permanent Committees roles were eloquently explained by the PAP President Hon. Chief Fortune Zephania Charumbira when giving a presentation on the mandate of the permanent committees of the PAP on Tuesday in Midrand, South Africa. Charumbira’s words of encouragement come on the backdrop of the Pan African Parliament (PAP) members are attending the PAP Permanent Committee meetings that started on March 5-9 in Midrand, South Africa.
The mandate of PAP is to ensure the full participation of African peoples in the economic development and integration of the continent, therefore the permanent committees provide oversight to ensure effective implementation of policies.
According to Charumbira, effective implementation will drive the Africa Agenda 2063, African Continental Free Trade Area, AU Shared Values, Flagship Projects such the Inga Dam Project, Single African Air Transport Market, among others; and further facilitate attainment of AU Theme of the Year: “The Year of AFCTFTA: Accelerating the AFCFTA Implementation”.
Relatedly, the objectives of the Pan-African Parliament promote the principles of human rights and democracy in Africa; encourage good governance, transparency and accountability in Member States; Promote peace, security and stability; Contribute to a more prosperous future for the peoples of Africa by promoting collective self-reliance and economic recovery; Facilitate cooperation and development in Africa; Strengthen Continental solidarity and build a sense of common destiny among the peoples of Africa; and Facilitate cooperation among Regional Economic Communities and their Parliamentary fora.
THE PAP PERMANENT COMMITTEES
(a) The Committee on Rural Economy, Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environment;
(b) The Committee on Monetary and Financial Affairs;
(c) The Committee on Trade, Customs and Immigration Matters;
(d) The Committee on Cooperation, International Relations and Conflict Resolutions;
(e) The Committee on Transport, Industry, Communications, Energy, Science and Technology;
(f) The Committee on Health, Labor and Social Affairs;
(g) The Committee on Education, Culture, Tourism and Human Resources;
(h) The Committee on Gender, Family, Youth and People with Disability;
(i) The Committee on Justice and Human Rights;
(j) The Committee on Rules, Privileges and Discipline;
The Committees shall handle business that is ordinarily handled by the corresponding Specialized Technical Committee responsible to the Executive Council in accordance with Article 14 of the Constitutive Act.
SPECIFIC FUNCTIONS OF THE COMMITTEES
As for the specific functions of the committees, the Committee on Rural Economy, Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environment amongst other functions: Considers the development of common regional and continental policies in agricultural sector; Assists the Parliament to oversee and assist with the harmonization of policies for rural and agricultural development; and promotes the development policy and the implementation of programs of the Union relating to natural resources and environment.
On the other hand, the Committee on Monetary and Financial Affairs shall, amongst others: Examines the draft estimates of the Parliamentary budget and submit to Parliament; Discusses the budget of the Union and make appropriate recommendations; Examines and report to Parliament on the problems involved in the implementation of the annual budget; and Assists Parliament to execute its role of establishing sound economic, monetary and investment policies.
Meanwhile the Committee on Trade, Customs and Immigration Matters amongst other roles: Considers matters relating to development of sound policy for cross-border, regional and continental concerns within the areas of trade, customs and immigration; Assists the Parliament to oversee relevant organs or institutions and policies of the Union; and Helps the Parliament to oversee external trade.
The Committee on Cooperation, International Relations and Conflict Resolutions shall, amongst others: Considers issues relating to the development of an efficient policy in matters of cooperation and international relations of the Parliament and the Union; Deals with the conventions and protocols linking the Parliament with regional and international institutions and report to the Parliament; Carries out examinations on the revision of Protocols and Treaties of the Union; Assists the Parliament in its efforts of conflict prevention and resolution.
The Committee on Transport, Industry, Communications, Energy, Science and Technology shall, amongst others: Considers issues relating to the development of transport and communications infrastructure; Assists Parliament to oversee the development and implementation of policies of the Union relating to transport, communication, science and technology and industry; Considers issues relating to the use of science and technology for the development of the Continent; Helps Parliament to supervise the development policies and the Union implementation programs for matters of industry, science, technology and energy.
The Committee on Health, Labor and Social Affairs deals with strategies and programs for the improvement of the lives of African peoples; Considers issues relating to regional and international cooperation in strategic planning and implementation of social development and health policies and programs.
The Committee on Education, Culture, Tourism and Human Resources shall, amongst others: Considers issues relating to the development of human resources in Member States;Assists Parliament to promote policy development and implementation of programs of the Union relating to access to education, promotion and preservation of culture and tourism and human resource development.
The Committee on Gender, Family, Youth and People with Disability shall, amongst others: Considers issues relating to the promotion of gender equality; Assists
I cannot reconcile with Khama – Guma
For the second time now, the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting turned into a tribalistic boardroom brawl which turned violet and was ultimately capped off with a resignation from one member of the NEC.
Samson Moyo Guma decided to leave the party after a heated exchange with the party patron Lt Gen Ian Khama who attended the Monday meeting at Arirang virtually. The meeting, according to insiders, started on a good footing with President Biggie Butale asking about the venue of their much anticipated congress.
However, things turned nasty as Butale, after the venue discussion was concluded, asked some NEC members to stop attacking the party in public. The accused included the patron, Deputy Treasurer and Deputy Secretary General. It is then that, Guma pleaded with the patron to always liaise with President Butale before he can issue out any public statement, especially about the party, as the two work together.
“Guma then asked Patron to comment, Khama said he did not have any comment. But Guma then told patron to always inform Butale about anything he intends to do, and that is when all hell broke loose. Khama went berserk, he accused Butale of being a thief who stole party money and accused both of them of being captured and sent by the BDP to destabilize the party. Guma then told him to stop being abusive and that they will not tolerate his autocracy and the whole meeting turned chaotic as some NEC members of Ngwato origin now defended Khama,” said one NEC member who attended the meeting.
Guma was riled according to meeting attendees, and decided to walk out of the meeting and subsequently decided to resign his membership. Butale was also annoyed by the stance taken by some to defend the patron on the basis of being their paramount chief, and he too decided to leave the meeting but did not quit the party. This was after a violet attack between some NEC members. Butale is currently nursing the injuries he sustained when he tried to intervene in a fist fight.
Before all these scenes, one of the agenda items was to suspend the NEC members who disparage other members and the party in public. Failure to execute the plan frustrated both Butale and Guma.
In an interview following a tense meeting that led to his resignation, Guma said the difference between him and Khama is huge and irreconcilable. “I cannot reconcile with him, in fact, no one can reconcile with Khama,” Guma told Weekendpost before he continued. “He should maybe reconcile first with President Mokgweetsi Masisi that is when we can see if it is doable. But for now, I am at peace. I have left him with his party, but I am with the UDC now.”
Some in the party say the party will regret the departure of some key members such as Guma eventually. “We are losing people who add quality to the party. Guma has assisted us with a printing machine for membership cards as well as assisting meaningfully to pay office rent, but since he is gone, we might be in for a hard time.”
The two are, however, expected to meet at Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) as the BPF congress will ratify the NEC decision to join the main opposition party. Once they ratify, and if Khama is elected President, he will find Guma in the UDC. However, it is not clear what role Guma will serve in the UDC.
Guma and Khama have been trading blows once it became apparent that the former will contest for the BPF Presidency. Khama wanted anyone else but Guma. Khama’s political wisdom told him no one can beat Guma in the party in the race for the party leadership, but Khama was not confortable with the idea of Guma becoming the leader of the party he founded. Khama then decided to put on political garments and declared his candidature to lead the party. This is contrary to his uncles’ advice to stay away from politics, especially the BPF Presidency.
Khama’s opposition to Guma leading BPF has opened a can of worms, as some believe it corroborates the popular hypothesis saying the party is the project of the Khamas and no one will be allowed to lead it. One political observer opines that, if Guma or Butale could be allowed to lead the party without any interference, it will increase its footprint in the North East, which help in making it a mainstream party, as opposed to the current perfection that it is a Bangwato project.
The BPF has had a turbulent time ever since its patron, who is also a former President, Khama, relocated to South Africa. He said acts of indiscipline and deep divisions rocked the party, something which irked him.
The party’s NEC is set to convene this weekend in Phikwe, but contents of the meeting are a secret.
More nurses heading for the UK
According to a report, the number of nurses leaving Botswana for better-paying jobs in the United Kingdom has increased significantly. This development has the potential to negatively impact the country’s struggling health sector.
Kenosi Mogorosi, the publicity secretary of the Botswana Nurses Union (BONU), in a letter addressed to union members on March 22, 2023, provides a comprehensive analysis of the factors that have affected the country’s nursing fraternity.
Through an agreement with the National Health Service (NHS), BONU was able to help facilitate the transfer of nurses from Botswana to the UK.
In a letter to the country’s nurses, Mogorosi stated that the recruitment firms Swift Trust and NEU Professionals would be coming to the country to look for 20 adult medical health nurses each.
“Submission of CV’s will be done at Lobatse Cumberland hotel on the 27th of March 2023 and Gaborone BONU offices on the 28 March 2023. Subsequently conducting interviews at Lobatse Cumberland Hotel on the 3rd April 2023 and Gaborone Hilton Garden Hotel on the 4th April 2023,” said Mogorosi.
He added that “This comes short notice because the trust is already in Southern Africa and could not reach its target in Zambia, hence coming to Botswana. All nurses who will be shortlisted for interviews should ensure that they mention that they were referred by BONU for easy coordination of sponsorship including English language tests.”
He also stated that “Since its short notice, nurses need not to travel from far places hence nurses around Lobatse and Gaborone can ensure they do submit their CVS.”
BONU is also working with the UK’s NHS to help its members secure jobs overseas as the country is going through a recruitment drive to address its shortage of 40,000 nurses.
This will increase the nursing vacancy rate in Botswana, which currently stands at over 30%. It is expected to further cripple the country’s already struggling health sector.
Last year, the Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust (EPUT) said it offered roles to more than 60 nurses from Botswana. The Recruitment team at EPUT spent eight days in Botswana interviewing hundreds of nurses interested in a career with the NHS. Nesta Williams, Director of Workforce Transformation and International Recruitment, at the time said said: “We’re delighted that 66 nurses have chosen to take the next step in their nursing career with EPUT.”
“The interview panel was impressed by the applicants’ commitment to their patients, understanding of good team working, and their approach to providing excellent care.
“Some of the nurses are trained in both mental health and physical health, and this means they could choose to work in a range of services.”
The NHS’s clinical workforce is the largest in the world. Nurses play a vital role in delivering person-centered care.
Professor Natalie Hammond, Executive Nurse, said: “The last two years of the pandemic have been extremely challenging. A robust nursing workforce helps us provide safe care, meet the needs of our communities, and is key to achieving our vision be the leading health and wellbeing service in the provision of mental health and community care.”
“It’s an exciting time; our EPUT clinicians will have opportunities to share their experience and expertise with our new colleagues from Botswana.”
A recruitment team of the Essex Partnership University NHS Trust spent eight days in Botswana two weeks ago during which they say they interviewed “hundreds of applicants” who want to work in the UK.
In the first round of their recruitment campaign in Botswana, the NHS had hired 66 nurses from the huge parade of applicants and revealed that more recruitments are expected to follow.
Indications are that a nurse in England earns an average P52 000 per month; and the figure goes up to P70 000 for a nurse in Ireland and other places in the UK. In Botswana a registered nurse earns between P12 000 and P20 000.