COVID-19 in Botswana
The emergence of COVID-19 as a global pandemic in March 2020 was a serious concern in Botswana. The people of Botswana have some of the world’s highest rates of tuberculosis and HIV infection, as well as rising rates of chronic health conditions, all of which can increase the risk of COVID-19 complications. In addition, like most countries throughout sub-Saharan Africa, Botswana didn’t have nearly enough intensive care beds, ventilators, or trained health care workers to manage a major outbreak.
From the initial urgency of containing viral transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 disease, to the prolonged threat of subsequent variants of the virus and new waves of infection, there was a critical need to ensure effective responses. Throughout the emergency, Botswana-Rutgers Partnership for Health actively collaborated across sectors to provide support.
Our joint work in Botswana has included:
COVID-19 National Webinar Series
In April 2020, the Botswana-Rutgers Partnership for Health launched a series of webinars designed to quickly prepare Botswana’s frontline health workers with the knowledge, skills, and tools to combat COVID-19. The Botswana COVID-19 Webinars were organized in collaboration with the Botswana Ministry of Health and Wellness, the University of Botswana, and the Botswana-Harvard AIDS Institute Partnership. The interprofessional team of presenters includes experts from medicine, public health, and epidemiology, as well as government health officials. The program has enabled wide dissemination of information on COVID-19 preparedness, recovery, and resiliency.
Building capacity for effective telehealth initiatives always has been a priority of the Botswana-Rutgers Partnership for Health. COVID-19 increased the urgency of finding distance learning solutions.
A grant from the U.S. Department of State enabled the creation of a clinical telehealth program in Botswana. The funding was part of the University Partnerships Initiative, which seeks to strengthen existing ties and foster new collaborations between U.S. and African universities. The project supported the Government of Botswana’s pandemic mitigation efforts, including the Botswana COVID-19 Webinars, in remote and under-resourced communities across the country. It also established a framework to bolster health systems through telehealth and expanded educational opportunities.
Initially, the program was focused on COVID-19. The improved telehealth capabilities now can be applied in the care and prevention of other infectious diseases, such as tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS, and have helped lay the groundwork for applying telehealth in the treatment of noncommunicable diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.
Read our story about the telehealth partnership and the report on the health information technology project that was part of the University Partnerships Initiative.