Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Okavango settlements get a boost in fight against HIV/AIDS

The Ngamiland District Health Management Team (DHMT) is to introduce the cattle post initiative which is expected to help curb the escalating HIV prevalence at settlements scattered in the Okavango Delta. Speaking in a recent interview, DHMT head Dr Christopher Chembe said the decision was met after there had been complaints from communities at the respective settlements that the Ministry of Health wasn’t doing enough to address their health needs, thus putting their lives at risk as they have no alternative besides having to travel by foot in areas infested with dangerous wild animals to access services in Maun. Although faced with the burden of having to work with limited resources, Chembe said the basic concept is to increase access for cattle posts to basic health amenities such as condoms, zinc sulphate, dehydration salts and so forth.

Chembe’s announcement follows a complaint raised by councilor for the newly established Bojanala ward Luke Motlaleselelo who had questioned the credibility of government departments with regard to the provision of services at settlements within the Okavango delta. He had also requested that the Ministry of Health through the DHMT should pin their focus on assisting communities in remote settlements by way of disseminating information regarding HIV and related diseases, as more and more people continue to die of the disease because of the lack of knowledge. The settlements in question are Ditshiping, Daunara, Xaxaba and Quxao, all of which are always affected by floods during the rainy season meaning communities there remain grounded because the roads are either inaccessible or rundown. For the fact that the settlements are stretched and far from Maun where services are easily available, he said there had also been no condom distribution for a long time now.

In the past, he said there used to be a mobile clinic which used to pass through and making stop overs at the said settlements, even though such services have since stopped. “The realization has been such that the lack of basic provisions such as electricity also contributes to the spreading of HIV amongst the youth especially, because they do not have any form of entertainment besides being involved in sex relationships and as a result being susceptible to HIV. Even most of the children born in these areas run the risk of contracting the virus because their mothers are never enrolled in the Prevention of Mother to child Transmission (PMTCT)”, he said.

Motlaleselelo also pleaded with authorities at Maun Administrative Authority, a subordinate of the North West District Council to visit the settlements more often to see how they can be best serviced. For a long time now, he said the settlements have been left out in terms of developments as they are still ungazetted. Two of them, Ditshiping and Xaxaba are the most affected as they are in a Wildlife Management Area. Dr Chembe admitted there has been an omission on the part of DHMT, adding however that his team has been greatly challenged of late. He suggested that government should go all out to address the issue of transport into the delta because now they (DMHT) have been branded failures by those who are not aware of the dilemma they are in. “Yes we have challenges, most of which are way beyond our control.

The rain season is the worst as the areas are not reachable by road during that time. We had decided to partner with people who travel to these areas routinely such as safari and camp owners, but most of them are unwilling to offer us lifts for various reasons. However I think this problem is not only of concern to the Ministry of Health as other departments are equally challenged”, he said. In the past, Chembe said they used to charter small planes going into the delta, up to a point when they couldn’t handle it anymore as charted planes are expensive, considering that a single trip used to cost them over P 30 000.

Access into the delta has also been a much debated issue even by officials at the labour office who also cannot regularly visit the camps because of bad or no roads. This has lead to most camp owners ill-treating employees because they know the department officials take long to inspect them. The same applies to the transport department, which is tasked with inspecting vehicles at the delta camps and other tourism establishments. Most often, they say their mission is constantly made impossible by lack of transport, such that they end up soliciting lifts (air transport) from the very people they have to inspect, who at times demand favours. They decried that usually when the inspection is not conducted in their favour, camp owners would threaten not to transport them back, or at times deny them other necessities such as meals.

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