Diarrhoea hits Botswana

Over the last few months close to 24 000 cases of diarrhoea have been reported in the country of about 1,6 million people, which has mainly affected children, who have succumbed to the epidemic in numbers. However, the cases have decreased significantly compared to the last report as 24 deaths were recorded out of 1 201 cases two weeks ago while 16 deaths were recorded out of 734 cases last week. Colo Boitshoko, the public relations officer in the Ministry of Health, said they were optimistic that the cases would reduce gradually in their next report. He also told journalists that the health ministry has concluded that the cause of the diarrhoea is a parasite called cryptosporidium and a bacterium called enteropathogenic Ecoli was also identified among infected children. The diarrhoea epidemic has been ravaging the country since the beginning of the year and children under the age of five are the most affected. The ministry has also disclosed that most of the children who died were enrolled in the Prevention of Mother to Child Treatment programme and were bottle-fed instead of cup fed as the ministry recommended. Meanwhile, a recent study conducted by two researchers has revealed that young Batswana are suffering from the effects of parental neglect, absentee fathers, family violence, divorce and parental poverty. The study also says poverty is a contributing factor to inadequate parenting, as it impacts negatively on the behaviour of the young and their parents. Families living in poverty and in poor deprived communities lack the resources to meet the needs of their children and youth, says the study. The study looked at the role of parents, traditional and community leaders on the welfare of young people in Botswana. The report said some children have no stable parental figure or parental substitute in their lives. Various manifestations of family conflict expose children and young people to problem behaviour, and they then tend to internalise feelings of deep rejection and abandonment. The study says the paramount role of upbringing children is currently compromised. During the study, the two found out that family violence is a major pre-disposing factor in that it creates a sense of neglect, abandonment, insecurity, anger, vengeance and bitterness in young people. Substance abuse and neglect complicates the risks and vulnerabilities of the youth, say the researchers. They also found that the absence of a backup social support system at family level and social capital at the community level is evidence of weak buffers. The implications of the findings of the study are that the youth suffer from inadequate conceptualisation of the factors contributing to youth problem behaviour.

April 2006
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