Komorebi Post: Botswana with an approximate population 2 million people, has 1,600 new cancer patients per year. Despite universal access to free health care, many Botswana patients with cancer present at advanced stages. Botswana Cancer Association documents that breast and cervix cancer are the most common cancers with women in Botswana, with prostate cancer affecting men.

Dr. Joe Pisalema, a 53-year medical doctor explained, “Cancer cannot be easily detected at its earliest stage and there are many causes to this disease, the unhealthy diets or the food we take, lack of exercise fueled largely by, at times factors that can be changed such as tobacco and alcohol abuse,”.

Public awareness of symptoms along early detection is essential to treating cancer, according to the International Agency for Research in Cancer, pediatric cancer in high income countries represented only about one percent of a country’s cancer burden but in a country like Botswana, with half the population of children, adolescents and young adults, it could be up to five percent. Dr. Jeremy Slone of Global Hope Botswana confirms that “through tremendous medical achievement, pediatric cancer went from an almost survivable death sentence 60 years ago to now over 80 percent of children surviving and closes to100 percent for selected cancers”.

Governmental plans and difficulties

The Botswana ministry of health and wellness is alleged to be in a battle to reduce the burden of cancer and other non-communicable diseases (NCDs). The Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. Alfred Madigele says his ministry has developed the multi special national Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) strategy (2018/2023) which will consolidate and focus the country’s efforts in lessening the burden Non-Communicable Diseases in Botswana.

Prioritizing cancer treatments is challenging in countries with limited health budgets and several health issues. According to WHO, report Botswana incorporated 80% of the 2015 list into their national essential medicines list, for example- “Trastuzumab, an important medicine in the treatment of breast cancer, would benefit only 3% of Botswana’s cancer patients, yet consume 43% of its entire cancer medicines budget “.

Backyard gardens

In 2014 the Botswana health and wellness ministry set onto a national survey to assess the burden of risk factors of NCDs in the country and the study revealed that 20 percent of Batswana do not engage in enough physical activities, 26 percent took alcohol while 95 percent does not eat enough of fruits and vegetables. The minister says if nothing is done about these figures, the country will continue to see a prevalence of cancer and lose of precious lives prematurely.

The Botswana government came up with ‘backyard gardens’ for each household, especially the poor or ‘needy’. The ‘backyard garden’ where the government supplied free material for a reasonable greenhouse of 10 meters square garden was an effort by the government to avail vegetables to everyone. The ‘backyard gardens’ were a ‘flop’ because of the scarcity of water or high unaffordable bills.

Fruits and vegetables are a scarce and expensive commodity because most of them are imported from the neighboring countries especially South Africa. Some families cannot afford fruits or vegetables because of the high prices.

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