Almost a quarter of Batswana living in rural areas cannot afford the basic basket of food and sometimes go for a whole day without food ÔÇô a World Bank survey has revealed.
“Overall, there were 362,116 poor people in Botswana in 2010” states the Botswana Social Protection Assessment report compiled by the World Bank and BIDPA. “Among these the most vulnerable are those that could not even afford the basic food necessities, whose consumption is below the food component of the Poverty Datum line. The absolute poverty (or food poverty) rate declined from 23.8 percent in 2012/2013 to 16 percent in 2009/10. This implies that over three-quarters of the poor or 288,610 people could not afford the basic basket of food in 2010. Indeed, 21 percent of the rural households were food-insecure as they declared they had “gone a whole day without food.” This percentage drops to 12 and seven percent for urban villages and cities and towns respectively with a national average of 15 percent.
The assessment also revealed that, “a large number of children in Botswana suffer from malnutrition.” The chronic under-nutrition (height for age) rate is 31.4 percent for children under 5, higher than in Botswana’s higher-middle income neighbours and about six times the level of its Latin American peers of Costa Rica and Jamaica. This indicates that 72,000 children under the age of 5 are stunted.”
The report blames this partly on the burden put on the health care system by the HIV epidemic. “Indeed, the NDP 10 indicated that the increasing demand for health care services coupled with complex disease management, has over stretched the existing health care delivery system. This resulted in long waiting times and congestions in health facilities, as well as costly external referrals.
Also, high rates of under-nutrition may be a result of the drop in exclusive breast feeding from 33.7 percent in 2000 to 20.3 percent in 2007, which the Ministry of Heath attributes to the HIV epidemic. On the other hand, part of the problem may be a lack of nutritional education and poor hygiene and child feeding practices, as pointed out by some clinic staff and reported in NDP 10,┬á “..there were no reports of shortages of supplies except cooking oil (at the clinics). Even in the remote settlements, supplies were delivered in a timely manner. Concern was however raised by some nurses that some children from this program still show signs of malnutrition and stunted growth. They said this may be an indication that supplements do not go directly to beneficiaries or that parents are neglecting their responsibilities to ensure that children are adequately fed.