COVID-19 in Botswana
In Botswana, containing viral transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 disease, remains an urgent priority. Dangerous variants continue to emerge and are leading to steep increases in infections and deaths. The Delta variant, in particular, has led to infection surges throughout the region. The impact of Omicron, which was first identified among foreign travelers to Botswana and is circulating in many countries, remains to be determined.
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 that may increase their risk of COVID-19 complications. In addition, like most countries throughout sub-Saharan Africa, Botswana doesn’t have nearly enough intensive care beds, ventilators, or trained health care workers to manage a major outbreak.
Given these conditions, there is an urgent need to ensure effective responses. Botswana-Rutgers Partnership for Health is actively collaborating across sectors to provide support.
Our joint work in Botswana includes:
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 are being 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 has 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 is part of the University Partnerships Initiative, which seeks to strengthen existing ties and foster new collaborations between U.S. and African universities. The project supports 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 establishes a framework to bolster health systems through telehealth and expanded educational opportunities.
Initially, the program is focusing on COVID-19. The improved telehealth capabilities will also help with the care and prevention of other infectious diseases, such as tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS, and help lay the groundwork for applying telehealth in the treatment of noncommunicable diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.