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Smoking a little is just as bad – Dr. Tapela

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The idea that occasional smoking does not do any harm is a dangerous myth, District Officer at Humana People to People Botswana (HPPB), Sam Rantsho has said, following the launch of a new project on the dangers of smoking in Botswana that the organisation is undertaking.

The African Capacity Building Foundation through, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, awarded the HPPB a grant for P1.2 million to implement the project in conjunction with the Ministry of Health and Wellness. “Social smokers often don’t think of themselves as smokers, so they don’t believe the health warnings about smoking apply to them. But the bottom line is, every cigarette exposes your body to harmful chemicals.” Rantsho said. He believes that even if a person smokes only occasionally; they are still exposed to long-term risks. As well as lung cancer, there are at least 13 other cancers linked with smoking.

According to Rantsho, the year-long project, which will be implemented in Gaborone and Gantsi is aimed at raising awareness on the risks associated with tobacco use and advocate for smoke-free environments within public areas. Several activities are planned for awareness creation including sensitisation workshops, which will be held with hotel and restaurant owners, media, civil society organisations and community leaders.

Adding to Rantsho’s sentiments, the head of Non-Communicable Diseases in the Ministry of Health and Wellness, Dr Neo Tapela, said an occasional cigarette is also connected to a host of other illnesses including cataracts, reduced fertility, an increased risk of an ectopic pregnancy (where the pregnancy develops outside the uterus) and weak bones. However, the direct health effects of social smoking are only part of the problem.

Dr Tapela said because smoking is highly addictive, smoking “a little” can easily turn into smoking more. “Non-daily smokers who smoke over three packs a month are just as likely to still be smoking after 14 years as daily smokers,” she said. She noted that many social smokers binge smoke when they do smoke, rather than just having a cigarette or two. “At present we have no way of knowing how readily a person will become addicted to nicotine until after the event, when they have become addicted. Nicotine is one of the most addictive substances known to mankind, so experimenting in that space is not smart,” she said, stressed that the only safe strategy is not to smoke at all.

There is some good news however, according to Dr Tapela, and that is, as soon as one stops smoking, the body starts to recover. Within 12 hours of your last cigarette, blood carbon monoxide levels are much lower and after a year, the risk of coronary heart disease will be half of what it once was as a smoker. For social smokers wanting to quit, she said it could help to ask friends to discourage you from smoking in social situations. “Cutting down on alcohol can also help some social smokers who tend to smoke more when they drink. And you might think about the people around you who have to breathe in the smoke you exhale,” she concluded.

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Botswana urged to sign Maputo

Keletso Thobega

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Botswana is one of the five countries that have been advised to sign the Maputo Protocol. Botswana, Egypt and Morocco are the only three African countries that have not signed this Protocol. Adopted in 2003 and implemented in 2005, the Maputo Protocol is a ground-breaking protocol on women and girls’ human rights, both within Africa and beyond.

It compensates for the shortcomings in the 1981 African Charter with respect to women and girls rights. It includes 32 articles on women and girls’ rights, and also provides an explicit definition of discrimination against women, which was missing in the African Charter.

The Maputo Protocol defines discrimination as “any distinction, exclusion or restriction or any differential treatment based on sex and whose objectives or effects compromise or destroy the recognition, enjoyment or the exercise by women, regardless of their marital status, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in all spheres of life.”

The State of African Women Report 2018 stipulates that more still needs to be done to implement laws and commitments to the rights of women and girls in African societies. While there has been significant improvements in addressing issues affecting women and girls over the years, the report notes that commitment to girls and women’s right is still lagging behind.

The report highlights that:
“Three in five countries in Africa do not criminalise rape, young women aged 15-24 in sub-Saharan Africa are 2.5 times more likely to be infected by HIV in comparison to men in the same age group, more than half of maternal deaths worldwide occur in sub-Saharan Africa and that gender based violence and sexual assault still affects women more”.

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Mama Rampa, the Good

Yvonne Mooka

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NOBLE CALLING: Martha Rampa on a mission to rescue the underprivileged

Martha Rampa, project manager at AAP Home Based Care and Family Life Programme quit her nursing job over ten years ago to attend to the needs of orphans, poor and sick.

AAP has 3119 orphans and underprivileged children from South East, Kweneng, Kanye and Kgalagadi districts. The Non-Governmental Organisation aims at supporting, providing food, clothing, shelter, education, nursing care, counselling and supporting destitute, terminally ill patients and orphaned children.

According to Rampa, the thrust of the practice is the link between the patient and the clinical management services. “It is a person-centred approach, which ensures that patients receive the appropriate service in a supportive and effective manner. Destitute and orphaned children have over time become integral part AAP programmes,” she said.

Last Saturday, she organised an appreciation dinner for donors. It was a colourful event where beneficiaries had also come to testify about the way their lives have changed since they were enrolled.

One of the young girls said that she had given up on life as she was from a poor family. The under 15 girl said that through AAP, she managed to continue and is exceling at school. A young man under 20 said that he was moved from a settlement where he could not focus on his studies because of his family background.

AAP put him through a different school that has boarding. “At AAP, we call her mama Rampa. She is our mother and we are so blessed to have her,” he said at the event in Gaborone.

The primary aim of AAP is to rehabilitate and develop children in difficult circumstances such as orphaned children, street children, economically poor and socially oppressed children and work for the eradication of child labour and child exploitation.

Rampa said the vision is to help and give many more children a real and loving home which helps them to live and grow up to be free, healthy and independent individuals; to influence behavioural change of individuals, especially those in the realm of sex and family life and to introduce a change that will bring a transformation, which alleviates the impact of HIV/Aids infection and stops the spread of the virus within the community.

She said there were local companies that had committed themselves to giving the children food after every two weeks. Through her gift of counselling, she also assists with providing emotional and spiritual support including counselling to orphans, destitute, terminally ill and the poor. She also prays for them.

She said that since the project started in 2000, the focus was on the care of HIV/AIDS patients. Volunteers were trained to take care of terminally ill patients in their homes. “Due to lack of funds in supporting the volunteers, for three years only 45 were full time serving in the project with great results.

“A networking relationship was established with Ministry of Health/AIDS department and Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs as well as other NGOs like BOCAIP, Clinics around Gaborone and Church leaders. We effectively communicated our mission to our leaders like Counsellors, Members of Parliament and diKgosi in the areas where we are operating,” she said.

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