Thursday, July 9, 2020

Botswana among countries ‘least prepared’ for coronavirus

Ranked 139 out of 195 countries in the Global Health Security Index, Botswana is on a list of countries that an international initiative it has signed onto considers “least prepared” to deal with global public health emergencies. In terms of response, Botswana gets a score of 23.9 percent and overall is ranked 160th. In terms of prevention, the country scores 22.0 percent and is ranked 152nd; scores 28.2 percent for detection and is ranked 133rd

Coronavirus, a global public health emergency that the Index anticipates, has come out of China and is fast spreading across the globe at an alarming rate. A researcher at Harvard University has predicted that at tipping point, this diseases will infect 70 percent of the world population.

A project of the Nuclear Threat Initiative and the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, the Global Health Security Index is the first comprehensive assessment and benchmarking of health security and related capabilities across the 195 countries that make up the States Parties to the World Health Organization’s International Health Regulations of 2005. The Index was co-developed with the Intelligence Unit of The Economist with the guidance of an international expert advisory panel.

The Index has 6 categories, 34 indicators, and 85 sub-indicators to assess a country’s capability to prevent and mitigate epidemics and pandemics. The categories are prevention, detection and reporting, rapid response, health system, compliance with international norms and risk environment. Botswana’s worst score is in health system where its health capacity in clinics, hospitals and community care centres, medical countermeasures and personnel deployment, healthcare access, communications with healthcare workers during a public health emergency, infection control practices and availability of equipment as well as capacity to test and approve new medical countermeasures are deemed woefully inadequate. These are the main challenges that Botswana will have to deal with when coronavirus hits.

Ranked 55th with an overall score of 47.1 percent, Kenya is Sub-Saharan Africa’s best performer in the Index. Nigeria, where the first coronavirus case in the region was reported on Friday, is ranked 96th with an overall score of 37.8 percent. For what it is worth, Botswana’s neighbours in South Africa, Namibia and supposedly dysfunctional Zimbabwe are deemed to be “more prepared” in the Index. This is an important mitigatory factor that lessens chances of diseases coming into Botswana through these countries.

Like Botswana, Angola, Namibia and Mozambique are “least prepared.” One understands why Angola and Mozambique have poor public healthcare systems because they went through decades-long civil wars but Botswana and Zambia are an oddity. In the late 1960s, Zambia was so awash in copper cash that when its president, Kenneth Kaunda, featured as guest speaker at the main Independence Day celebrations in Gaborone in 1968, he offered all-expenses-paid scholarships to all Batswana Form 5 school-leavers who qualified to study at Zambian tertiary education institutions. Following the discovery of diamonds, Botswana would itself enjoy one of the world’s longest economic booms and Africa’s longest economic boom. Tragically, that money wasn’t used to develop robust public healthcare systems.

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Sunday Standard July 5 – 11

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of July 5 - 11, 2020.