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Dusty road a health hazard for Mogoditshane Block 9 residents

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Residents of Mogoditshane Block 5 have been battling against the dust problem that has become a health issue for well over a decade, with clouds of dust descending on their homes on a daily basis. Residents are concerned about the ‘wall of dust’ they are exposed to day and night, saying it is a threat to their health. “It has affected a lot of aspects of our homes, our lives, and our health,” Leungo Moeti said at her home.

On Moeti’s property, virtually everything is coated in a layer of dust. She said much of it comes from vehicles especially kombis that drive past at incredible speed, leaving in their trail billows of dust that blow throughout the neighbourhood. “It’s almost pointless trying to keep anything clean,” she said. Goabaone Munyamane lives down the road from Moeti and she said they have to clean dust daily and never even dream of opening windows. Both homeowners are worried about the potential health effects of breathing in the fine dust.

“It’s irritating to your eyes, your throat you see it on your counter tops, in your food. It’s on everything, it’s everywhere,” Munyamane said. Another resident, Tshepo Monageng, 32, who has been living in the area since the early ‘90s said they survive by drinking fresh milk daily in order to dilute the dust from their respiratory system. He said they sometimes go to the extent of asking for face and nose masks from the clinic in order to cover their faces and get through the day. He said the situation is at times worsened by ignorant drivers.

“They are always in a hurry, you hardly see a driver who is considerate around here, this huge cloud of dust has now become normal and a part of us,” he said. Street vendor Monyana Mmutle (34) lamented that she is failing to expand her business because of the situation at hand. “I wanted to expand and sell vegetables but nobody will buy them if they will always be covered in dust,” she said.

The situation is even more disheartening because her home is not very far from the road, her home furniture is always dusty and every-time she does laundry, she is forced to remove it from the line immediately after drying. She fears for her two-year old little boy, who at times does not respond well to the environment and coughs badly. “We fear for our children who are at the risk of falling ill due to the excessive dust.”

‘And that fear is not off the mark. “Prolonged exposure to dusty air may lead to lung cancer or interstitial lung disease (ILD),” General Practitioner at Lordland Medical Centre, Dr David Munsanje tells The Midweek Sun. ILD reduces the amount of oxygen in the body and can cause death, he says. “Both the toxic air and dust pollution can cause diseases like asthma, bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, nasal allergy and rhinitis,” he says, adding two more diseases, silicosis and asbestosis, are also on the increase lately. Dr Munsanje said the dust clouds people see were not the real problem in terms of health. “It is the very small invisible dust particles that get deep inside the lungs.”

Efforts to verify increased cases of Tuberculosis (TB) at the nearby Nkoyaphiri clinic hit a snag as this publication was all week sent from pillar to post. Unconfirmed reports suggest that the clinic is inundated with people suffering from TB. It is feared that the dusty road may be causing this. Member of Parliament for Mogoditshane Sedirwa Kgoroba said he has long advised government that the road needs immediate attention but his pleas have hit a snag.“I even thought of organising a protest march but many felt that it would appear political, I long spoke to minister Slumber Tsogwane to come and address Mogoditshane residents but he has not responded yet,” he said.Nevertherless Kgoroba noted that the council has promised that by late this year, construction of a proper tarred road will begin in the area.

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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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JUST PROPAGANDA

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Dr Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi has refuted claims that she is under the radar of the Financial Intelligence Agency. Dr Venson-Moitoi who pulled out of the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) presidential race at the eleventh hour, was last week reported to have had her accounts frozen because she was being investigated by FIA.

It was alleged that the freezing of the accounts would have a negative bearing on her campaign as she could not access her funds. Responding to enquiries on the issue during a media briefing in Kang Village, Dr Venson-Moitoi said the allegations were far from the truth.

According to the former cabinet minister, all her accounts were clean and she was accessing her funds without any challenge. “The person who was saying all those things was lying. My accounts are clean as we speak. I was never confronted by FIA or anyone. As far as I know I am not under any investigations,” she said.

Linked to that, it had emerged that Dr Venson-Moitoi’s campaign was being funded from outside the country especially by the some rich families in South Africa. Reports then suggested that her source of funding was blocked through the intervention of FIA, and that even her accounts were frozen. She dismissed the reports as propaganda that was perhaps spread to soil her campaign.

“I am clean. This is why I am never mentioned in missing funds from National Petroleum Fund or those of Capital Management Botswana,” said the Serowe South Member of Parliament. Last month Dr Venson-Moitoi had reported to the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) Director General Peter Magosi that she was not happy that she is being followed around the country by security agents.

Magosi dismissed the claims on grounds that his organisation is not the only one that uses private motor vehicles.

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