Students across the country are using plastic bags for condoms while night watchmen dispense medication in health facilities, a report detailing the crisis in Botswana’s health sector has revealed.
The report by Botswana Network on Ethics Law and HIV (BONELA) has revealed that Government’s decision not to distribute condoms in schools has resulted in students using plastic bags to substitute for the rubbery contraceptive. Government has a policy against the distribution of condoms in schools.
The report states that some students who were interviewed by BONELA representatives during their nation-wide tour confessed to using plastic bags or cheap cheese-knacks as condoms.
BONELA also found that there is “Non-availability of condoms in facilities so one wonders if STIs and HIV incidents are increasing in those areas? Non-availability and inability to access (because of policy stand) of contraceptives for teenagers so students in schools use plastic bags for sex …you know those ones used for sandwiches?”
Programmes manager at BONELA, Felistus Motimedi told Sunday Standard that authorities and members of the public are aware that school going children are sexually active and this calls for a proper response if Botswana is going to ensure that it does not fight a losing battle against HIV/AIDS.
On the other hand, night watchmen were found dispensing medication at a number of government health facilities, according to BONELA. Motimedi explained that they have since established that these were not HIV/AIDS related drugs.
The Human rights NGO stated that a country tour by its management brought to the fore many issues of national interest, particularly human rights in relation to health.
“When we looked at the 7 principles of the Right to Health (Availability, Accessibility, Acceptability, Affordability, Quality Care, Participation, Other Determining Factors of Health-such as food, shelter, sanitation etc),” BONELA said.
The NGO states that its management found that non-qualified or trained people were dispensing medication “and one wonders if this person can address the patient’s questions on side effects etc?”
Motimedi said that some of the untrained persons include night watchmen who substitute trained personnel due to shortage of staff in a number of government health facilities.
BONELA also discovered that “ Drug/medicine stock outs and patients being forced to go and buy in private pharmacy shops so affordability and access becomes a challenge because it is not every district that has these shops so what happens to the patients.”
BONELA states”“One tends to ask once again if the problem lies with Ministry of Health Head Quarters- Central Medical Stores (CMS) or local facilities and whether local facilities do not have trends on what types of illnesses are prevalent in their areas of operation and the type of treatment needed so that the drugs are ordered in time?”
BONELA further found that “there is no access to information on health issues (language used on fliers and posters/pamphlets mostly in English). Moreover, none for the blind (e.g Braille) or even sign language
“Lack of Omang (identity card) meant no access to health services and based on the ‘late application’ fees, people tend to stay even longer to apply for these and /or go to health services,” BONELA said.
Immediate comment from Ministry of Health and Wellness officials was not available at the time of going to press.