The Ministry of Health celebrated the annual World Tuberculosis Day at the impoverished Old Naledi location on Thursday with the government calling for concerted efforts to eradicate the communicable deadly disease, which threatens to engulf the country.
Hardly recognized as part of Gaborone city because it predominantly features eye-sore of shacks and slums, prompting the name Ditakana ÔÇô a demeaning local name for debilitated and poor houses- Old Naledi is a melting pot for the unemployed and the poor.
It is an overcrowded location with a myriad of communicable diseases, particularly tuberculosis running riot in the area and spurring the health officials to launch, for the first time in Old Naledi, the World TB Day under the theme Innovation, coupled with the slogan On The Move against Tuberculosis.
Speaking at the occasion, characterized by TB related drama, poems and stalls preaching means to combat the deadly disease, Old Naledi big-wigs, including officials from the tribal authorities and area councilors, doubted the strategies employed by the government ,saying that the ministry must beef up staff to render services to a populous location prone to contagious and communicable diseases, including tuberculosis.
As it stands, only a single doctor is designated to give services and the problem is exacerbated by the government’s reluctance to offer 24-hour clinic services, prompting patients to walk long distance during the night to obtain services from other operational clinics.
“I therefore urge you as our respectable leaders to ponder over this situation to at least add one more doctor, pharmacists and open up the clinic to a 24-hour service,” Kgosi Charles Koitsiwe pleaded, adding that such a transition could be a major boost to the understaffed Kagiso Clinic.
Chipped in Old Naledi central councilor Oabile Mafunga: “I am happy that our Kgosi broke his silence today about the hardships we endure in this area. This is a grey area that our leadership should take prompt actions against before it gets out of hand. We can not take it much longer as we visit the clinic only to come home empty handed without medications as the pharmacists are said to be off duty or, worse still, pills are unavailable.”
Despite these setbacks, the area leaders welcomed the launch as an eye opener for the residents, who would from the lessons learnt at the occasion, treat the disease with extreme care and vigilance.
“Ladies and gentlemen, TB is still a major public health problem in Botswana and the African region at large. The 2010 WHO Global TB control report indicates that the African region, accounting for just 12 percent population, recorded a whopping 23 percent of notified TB cases worldwide,” revealed Dr Eugene Nyarko, the World Health Organisation representative to Botswana, adding “most of the high burden is linked to the emergence of new challenges such as TB/HIV co-infection and multi-drug resistant TB.”
For his part, the guest speaker, Minister Of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration, Mokgweetsi Masisi, said efforts are underway to ensure availability of quality assured drugs; he decried the disturbing phenomenon that some patients continue to refuse to take their medication and thus pose a threat to the communities they live in.
“Tuberculosis elimination can never be possible without involvement of the affected and infected. As government, our move towards elimination means more and more of community involvement,” Masisi emphasized.
Although Botswana government is fighting to combat the disease reports of multi-drug resistant TB and extensive drug resistant TB are a cause of concern.