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SILENT KILLER

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Specialist in Lupus and other rare diseases Dr. Micah Karibo describes the condition as a silent killer the world over.

Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system, instead of serving its normal protective function, forms antibodies that attack healthy tissues and organs. There are several types of Lupus. Discoid Lupus affects the skin, causing a rash and lesions, usually across the face and upper part of the body. Systemic Lupus Erythematosus is usually more severe than Discoid and can attack any body organ or system, such as joints, kidneys, brain, heart and lungs.

The doctor says that symptoms and diagnosis occur most often when women are in their childbearing years, between the ages of 15 and 44. “Symptoms of Lupus will occur before age 18 in 15 percent of the people who are later diagnosed with the disease,” he explains. Relatives of people with Lupus have an approximately 5-13 percent chances of developing Lupus. However, only about 5 percent of children will develop Lupus if their mother has it.

According to Dr. Karibo, currently there is no cure for Lupus, but there certainly is effective treatment. For most people with Lupus, proper treatment can minimise symptoms, reduce inflammation and pain, and stop the development of serious organ damage. Lupus raises chances of heart disease and stroke. Karibo says this is probably due to the long-term inflammation that comes with Lupus. Some Lupus medicines, such as steroids, may also increase the risk. In addition, Lupus causes inflammation of the heart or the sac that surrounds it. This can cause sharp pain in the chest.

Lupus also may inflame the outside lining of the lungs. Pain often gets worse with deep breaths. Kidneys too, may suffer inflamation, causing permanent damage. This can lead to swelling in the legs and high blood pressure. “Sometimes Lupus can lead to kidney failure and require dialysis,” he says, confirming that it is risky to fall pregnant when you have Lupus.

In Botswana, a movement on Facebook called Lupus Association of Botswana is doing a great job raising awareness about the disease. Although there are no statistics on patients, several Batswana are sharing their experiences. However, internet site cureresearch.com says that in Botswana 8,437 are currently managing Lupus. South Africa had the largest of 228,778, followed by Tanzania at 185,658.

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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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