Despite the Cholera outbreak which has claimed hundreds of lives in neighbouring Zambia and Zimbabwe, Botswana has escaped unscathed so far.
Since the outbreak started in December, Zambia has already reported 11, 000 cases with 432 deaths, whilst Zimbabwe has recorded 18, 000 and just over 150 fatalities.
Statistics show a small number of deaths in South Africa.
With thousands moving between the three countries, there are fears that the disease will inevitably hit Botswana, which provides a transit route connecting Zambia and Zim to SA.
However, Acting Executive Director of the newly created Botswana Public Health Institute, Dr Thebeyame Macheke assured The Voice on Tuesday that not a single case of Cholera has been reported in the country thus far.
He revealed there were a few ‘false alarms’ in Francistown, Hukuntsi, Kgatleng last year.
“All of them were people who travelled abroad and upon arrival they reported diarrhea, but upon further investigations they were found to be negative,” said Dr Macheke.
He maintained the country is prepared for any eventual outbreak because it is not a new disease and they have learned from previous outbreaks.
“Cholera, like any other diarrheal disease, is something that we know how to manage. We have resuscitated and made sure our structures are on alert to deal with any declaration of an outbreak. Readiness can not really be enough, it relies mostly on making sure that we don’t have an outbreak in the first place. That can be achieved through working with the community to make sure they are adhering to hygiene protocols, and ensuring that how they handle their food and water is in line with those hygiene principles,” he stressed.
Dr Macheke explained that unlike Covid-19, Cholera does not spread from person to person but rather through contaminated food and water.
Therefore chances of establishing quarantine centres for people travelling from abroad is very low, including closure of borders or restriction of movement.
He added that those showing signs of dehydration or diarrhea are attended to in isolation centres.
Dr Macheke concluded by imploring Batswana travelling abroad to observe strict hygiene practices.
“If possible only drink bottled water, eat cooked food avoid handshakes and always wash hands,” he advised.
Meanwhile the Public Director , Public Health Policy, Diplomacy and Communication at Zambia National Health Institute Dr Myzanga Mazamba Liwewe has assured both the Zambian nation and the SADC region that the Zambian government has the situation under control and there was therefore no need for Botswana and other neighbouring countries to close borders.
Speaking in an interview with The Voice on Wednesday Dr Liwewe said that although the outbreak was initially so ferocious that The National Heroes Stadium had to be converted to a fully equipped and operational cholera centre, government had shown enough political will halt the problem by immediately launching an effective multi sectoral approach that had reduced the number of deaths per day from an average of 20 to six.
“Today only six deaths were recorded. Although it doesn’t mean that six is an acceptable number because these are lives we are speaking of, it is worth noting that there has been a significant decrease in mortality rate,” she said.
Buttressing Dr Liwewe’s sentiments, former Minister of Health, Dr Chitalu Chilufya emphasised the need for Governments to galvanise sufficient political will to strengthen health systems in general and place high premium on the public health security pillar.
“Protecting our people from public health hazards and epidemics is a key economic investment. Epidemics disrupt economic development programs and reduce Productivity.A multi sectoral approach to health, addressing all the social determinants of health is the most sustainable approach to attaining a healthy and wealthy population.Transformational, visionary and evidence driven Leadership is critical.” See video online