Houston, Texas (USA):The ambiance was just right for the occasion to celebrate Africa’s best model in combating AIDS, the same resilience that is now being replicated to fight and win the war against cancer and associated blood diseases. Taking to the podium, President Mokgweetsi Masisi told the audience at a gala dinner held in his honour that the former president, Festus Mogae was an inspirational leader who made “the clarion call about our probable demise as a nation. The Brystol-Myers Squibb Foundation, the Baylor school of medicine and the University of Texas Children’s Hospital were among the first to handhold us and the establishment of the Baylor children’s clinic of excellence housed at the Princess Marina Hospital stands tall as evidence of an effective partnership. To this end, we are excruciatingly grateful,” he said to a thunderous applause.
The determination that Botswana has displayed since 2003 when the first partnership was forged to accelerate treatment of those dying of the disease, which has earned the trailblazer title for Botswana boasting the best HIV treatment and prevention interventions being emulated across sub-Saharan Africa, will now be replicated in an effort to turn the corner against non-communicable diseases of the blood in particular, cancer. The Texas Children’s Hospital has the highest treatment success rate of cancer in children in the world. In the United States for example, 75 percent of children who are sick from cancer make full recovery, while across sub-Saharan Africa, in every 100, 000 cancer-related illnesses, nearly 90 percent of them succumb to the conditions. Research has shown traceable evidence that poor medical facilities to deal with the treatment of the disease that requires expensive state-of-the art equipment, world-class facilities including laboratories for research, as well as the inadequacy of those in the medical field to perform surgical procedures on those suffering from the debilitating conditions, all too often, conspire against the single fighting spirit of the cancer patients in Africa. It is against this backdrop that the Government of Botswana through the Ministry of Health and Wellness, expanded the partnership with the Texas Children’s Hospital to construct an oncology clinic that will be attached to the Sir KetumileMasire Training Hospital on the grounds of the University of Botswana. It is envisaged the construction will be launched in earnest in 2019.
“I stand here tonight to express deep gratitude on behalf of the nation of Botswana to the continued support we receive from the Texas Children’s Hospital. This is a new front. The mandate has been expanded to include cancer, which is quite prevalent these days in our society, and arguably linked to the HIV incidences. But any country that cares about its postery does not leave its children behind. It is because of this reason that my presidency would not be complete if I did not make a visit to this incomparable institution, if I may borrow Mr Wallace’s descriptive qualifier. I can assure you that it will not be my last visit. In 2016, I was there when the cheque donation of $50 million was presented at the site where this new facility will be put up. I was there as the vice president. I was there at the groundbreaking ceremony. And I am here tonight as the president of the country and making a bold commitment that we have made the resolve as a country to set up a subvention fund every year towards the construction of this facility in addition to the generous contributions from the Brystol-Myers Squibb Foundation. I further commit my government to effectively use your investments for the intended purpose. I make an appeal not only to the businesses in the health sector, but all others who may see it worthy to partner with Botswana to rid us of the scourge of cancer, especially among children. I assure you that we are a country that prides itself on the rule of law and that means respecting ourselves first, and also respecting those outside our borders. It has meant setting up our immigration protocols to treat those visiting our country or considering us as an investment destination with respect that human beings deserve. You have my word as the country’s president,” he stated amidst cheers.
The President and CEO of the Texas Children’s Hospital, Mr Mike Wallace spoke warmly about President Masisi and his style of leadership, which would make the partnership successful.
“I must confess that when I met you, there was that chemistry between us, and I felt that you are on to great things. I am sure you felt something similar, too. Botswana has stood out as the best model in the original partnership that was initiated by a great leader like you, Festus Mogae, and we often tell this unique story across sub-Saharan Africa where we exist,and that is in seven countries to be precise. I have no doubt you will bear the torch and together, we will succeed,” Wallace stressed.