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Cancer remains leading cause of death

Rachel Raditsebe

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Batswana have been advised to make the necessary adjustments including, maintaining a healthy lifestyle and avoiding exposure to known cancer-causing substances as these go a long way in helping to keep cancer at bay.

Health and Wellness Minister Dr Alfred Madigele made the call on Monday during the 2019 World Cancer Day commeorations at the Mochudi Kgotla. Held under the theme, “You can, I can,” the day took a positive and proactive approach to the fight against cancer, highlighting that solutions exist and that they are within reach.

“The campaign outlines actions that communities and individuals can take to save lives, achieve greater equity in cancer care and make fighting cancer a priority, Dr Madigele said.Since it is usually not possible to know exactly why one person develops cancer and another doesn’t, DrMadigele stressed the importance of screening, early detection, diet and exercise.

Other lifestyle modifications that the minister mentioned included avoiding tobacco smoking and chewing, limiting alcohol intake and staying safe under the sun. He emphasised that high index of suspicion for early symptoms and signs of cancer was key, because “finding cancer early makes it easier to treat and cure.”

Cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide; more than AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined. According to the Union for International Cancer Control, (UICC), in the past year, cancer accounted for 8.2 million deaths out of which 4 million were people between the ages between 39 and 60 years. Botswana is not immune from this malady. Since 1999 when the Botswana National Cancer Registry was established, increasing numbers of cancer cases have been recorded.

It is estimated that 1400 new cancer cases are diagnosed annually in Botswana with 70 percent being diagnosed late when there is little chance for cure and treatment is more expensive and uncomfortable to patients.The most commonly diagnosed cancers in Botswana include Kaposi Sarcoma (skin cancer), Cervical, Breast, Oesophageal and prostate cancers.

The minister pointed to milestones government has achieved like providing quality health services across the country for the prevention, early detection and treatment of various forms of cancer. These include screening modalities for cervical cancer such as See and Treat, and pap smears so that cancers are detected early and treated. These services are offered in 45 facilities across 26 districts.

Furthermore, young girls aged between 9 and 13 years are vaccinated against cervical cancer. Despite these strides, Madigele regretted that there remained some factors working against these efforts to effectively combat the scourge of cancer in Botswana. These include poor awareness, poor health seeking behaviour and low number of skilled health care personnel.

It is hoped that the multi-sectoral national NCD Strategy( 2018/2022) which will be launched soon, will consolidate and focus country efforts in mitigating the burden of NCD in the country.

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BATTLE FOR MMADIKOLO

The MidweekSun Admin

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University of Botswana students are bracing themselves for the Student Representative Council (SRC) elections. Contenders are fighting tooth and nail to appease the electorate. Three camps are in contention to fill the 13 council positions.

Umbrella for Democratic Change’s (UDC) Moono-wa-Baithuti has the onerous task of defending all the 13 seats which they hauled at the last elections of 2018. “As Moono wa Baithuti, we have lots of achievements. We are on the verge of getting the student bar open, so we need to go back and fix what we started,” said UDC’s Tumelo Legase who is vying for the position of Vice President.

He said they have advocated for student empowerment policies and are also proposing a third arm of student representation. “We have the SRC and the Judiciary, what we need is the student Parliament so that we have a large number of leaders who can independently attend to problems across the university.” The dark horse in this race is the University of Botswana’s Alliance for Progressive (AP) which will take another leap of faith despite their loss in the previous election.

They are rejuvenated and redefined. Candidate for Vice President Karabo Bokwe said central to their mandate is making the welfare of the student community a priority. “We want to help eradicate school policies that border on oppression, and through new polices call for initiatives that come with enterprenuership benefits to students.”

AP candidate for Information and Publicity, a first year Criminal Justice student Gracious Selelo said they are more united than other parties even at national level. “We don’t have internal squabbles within our party, we are more focused and can deliver our mandate easily,” she noted.

However the ruling party’s BDP GS-26 will come with all guns blazing after an embarrassing defeat in the previous elections. Preparations have been made and the GS-26 is looking to take the elections by storm.

According to their Presidential Candidate Boniface Seane, they come with the message of hope that addresses the current status quo at the University.“The university is not functioning so we drew three policies that embrace inclusiveness. We want to lead collectively with the students, through the student body meetings which the previous SRCs have failed to do. “We will consult with the students with no discrimination.”

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Healthcare system to improve

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The Health ministry has developed a seven-point programme to guide the country in improving the healthcare system, says Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr Alfred Rabashemi Madigele.

“The seven priority areas will serve as a roadmap and a guardian angel towards improving the overall healthcare system and increasing access to health care while fighting the burden of disease that confronts us,” said Madigele at Masa Square Hotel on Tuesday.

The focal areas include decentralisation; Universal Health Coverage, Tertiary Care, Strategic leveraging on the Private sector; Supply Chain; Research as well as Staff welfare and accountability.
Point-one of the seven priority areas according to Dr Madigele is about empowering the District Health Management Teams (DHMTs) and transforming them into fully fledged Regional Health Authorities.

“In this case, they will be rationalised from 27 to 18 and have the authority to hire A and B Scales, promote up to C1 and manage micro procurement,” he said. Point two is about improving the quality of healthcare services. “The main causes of mortality and their risk factors in Botswana are Primary Health Care issues,” Dr Madigele said.

He added that “Our efforts for the attainment of Universal Health Coverage should thus focus on: Prevention; Comprehensive screening; Early treatment; and Surveillance at the community.”
This he said, would require revamped grassroots efforts in which adequate numbers of community health workers through partnerships with the non-governmental sector will be deployed as necessary.

According to Dr Madigele, the top five causes of death in Botswana in 2017 were HIV/AIDS, Ischemic heart disease, stroke, lower respiratory infections and Diabetes. He said compared to 2007, NCDs among these had increased in burden by an average of 34%. The top five risk factors related to these causes of mortality were unsafe sex; poor diet; high blood pressure; alcohol abuse and tobacco use.

Improving the quality of care, Madigele said will also include the safety and security of patients; attitudes of staff as experienced by patients; time taken in queues either before seeing a health worker or receiving medication and the availability of drugs.

Meanwhile, the health minister revealed that the commissioning of Sir Ketumile Masire Teaching Hospital (SKMTH) is ongoing with the facility scheduled for opening on April 24th. “This will be a phased approach commencing with some services including paediatric oncology, internal medicine, rheumatology and endocrinology, diagnostic radiology, laboratory services and pharmacy”.

A phased commissioning of SKMTH will reduce overdependence on South Africa for referrals, reduce costs and also institutionalise provision of super specialist services within Botswana.

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