Accessing clean drinkable water remains a privilege and not a right - Saleshando

Low socio-economic status and inadequate supplies of reticulated water are some of the main factors that lead to diarrhoea infections in the Ngami Region.

The Ministry of Health and Wellness recently warned the public about the outbreak of diarrhoeal illnesses in children under five, with Ngamiland and Chobe regions identified as the concentrated areas for this condition.

More than 330 cases of diarrhoea with dehydration have been recorded since July 3rd, this according to the Spokesperson of the Ministry of Health and Wellness, Dr. Christopher Nyanga. He has confirmed to Botswana Guardian that over 10 lives have been lost across the country due to this condition.

Member of Parliament for Maun West constituency, Dumelang Saleshando says it is disheartening that people's health and lifestyle are affected by the water situation in the region.

"Unclean drinking water is a major problem. People have no option but to drink directly from natural streams," he says. He emphasises that something needs to be done to curb the situation because

whenever there is an outbreak of diarrheal illness in children below the age of five, the area always seems to be one of the most affected.

"Our area is prone to diarrhoea on account of various factors. We are one of the poorest regions in the country but the richest in terms of natural wealth," he says, further reiterating that access to clean drinking water remains a challenge citing Parliament's recent rejection of a motion brought by MP for Ngami Caterpillar Hikuama, calling for the provision of water to small settlements.

Saleshando further notes that some of the identified risk factors for diarrhoea or causal Hypothesis are: Low Socio-Economic status, water inflow during winter into the Thamalakane River, and inadequate supplies of reticulated water, water storage methods, poor sanitation in some areas and Malnutrition.

Stool samples have been collected and 59 showed Rotavirus, followed by E.Coli bacteria with 34 cases.

Ngami Diarrhoea situation, actually started when Ngamiland began experiencing a peak in diarrhoea cases in week 24 (13th June 2022) when 13 cases of diarrhoea with dehydration were recorded, reaching the action threshold.

A total of 788 diarrhoea cases were registered from week 24 till 6th August 2022. A total of eight deaths have been registered since week 24 translating to a Case fatality rate of 0.8 per cent. As of week 31, the region has moved from Action to Alert.

The DHMT has strengthened its response and surveillance measures in order to contain the spread of the disease in the district, Saleshando says.

The Ministry of Health has thus provided additional technical and human resource support to the District. The DHMT through the office of the DC received one vehicle to assist in the outbreak, and all 30 Ngami facilities have been visited through mentoring and support.

Saleshando believes that Ngamiland District will remain susceptible to outbreaks of diseases associated with poor hygiene. He adds that though the area is home to scenic swamps and lakes, accessing clean drinking water remains a privilege and not a right.

However, he remains optimistic that the situation in the region could only improve if the water situation is addressed with immediate effect, as it has always been a challenge.