A recent World Health Organisation (WHO) report that examines national trends in the burden and control of communicable and non-communicable diseases in the WHO African region notes that Botswana is having serious challenges with NCDs.
According to the report titled, “Communicable and non-communicable diseases in Africa in 2021/22,” Botswana is the sixth-most burdened nation on the African continent in terms of age-standardised NCD death rate (per 100 000 population).
Botswana is the sixth most burdened country, with an age-standardised NCD death rate of 728.1. Lesotho is the most burdened nation on the continent, with a rate of 1,137.0 per 100 000 population, followed by Eswatini with 917.1 and the Central African Republic with 911.1. Mozambique is in fourth place with a rate of 778.6, and Zimbabwe is ranked fifth with a rate of 735.0.
“The countries with the highest age-standardised death rates were in the Southern Africa region Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Botswana) with only the Central Africa Republic in the top six countries outside this region,” states the report. It also add that the report “tracks progress made with respect to disease burden reduction, elimination and eradication. It also highlights major emerging threats, opportunities and priorities in the fight against communicable and non-communicable diseases in the region”.
A few months ago at a panel discussion held under the theme “One Government Approach to Universal Health Coverage,” Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health (MoH), Grace Muzila, told scores of stakeholders that the health ministry spends nearly a billion Pula on diseases that can be prevented. She added that efforts are being made to reduce this sum so that funds can be directed to primary healthcare.
To end NCDs by 2025, the World Health Organisation (WHO) set nine NCD targets. Some of the targets include halting the rise in diabetes and obesity, a 30% relative reduction in prevalence of current tobacco use in persons aged 15+ years, a 10% relative reduction in prevalence of insufficient physical activity, a 25% relative reduction in the overall mortality from cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes, or chronic respiratory diseases, at least 10% relative reduction in the harmful use of alcohol, as appropriate, within the national context.
However, a simple examination of statistics reveals that Botswana is far from meeting the majority of the targets. The rising prevalence of NCDs is being attributed to an increase in risky behaviours such as smoking, excessive alcohol use, poor diets, and physical inactivity.
In 2021, the investment case, under the Task Force’s WHO-UNDP flagship programme, noted that “NCDs not only contribute to health care costs, but are a significant socio-economic drain to individuals, families and communities.”
The preliminary findings presented at the event noted that government expenditure on health care for NCDs of US$226 million (2.5 billion BWP) is just the tip of the iceberg. “Altogether, the economic cost of NCDs to the Botswana economy is US$ 1.2 billion (BWP 13.2 billion) per year, which is equivalent to 5.92% of the country’s annual gross domestic product,” reads part of the findings.
The Communicable and Non-Communicable Diseases in Africa in 2021/22 report predicts that the WHO AFRO Region nations’ efforts to reduce poverty will be hampered by the rapid rise in NCDs, particularly by rising household costs for health care.
“Vulnerable and socially disadvantaged people get sicker and die sooner than people in higher socioeconomic groups, because they are at greater risk of being exposed to harmful products, such as tobacco, or unhealthy dietary practices, and have limited access to health services.
The minister of Health and Wellness, Dr Edwin Dikoloti highlighted that NCDs are now estimated to cause 46% of all deaths in Botswana. Reports also show that if there is no change in the current trends, well before 2050, NCDs will be responsible for over 50 percent of deaths in the country.