otswana’s President Mokgweetsi Masisi has called on the World Health Organization (WHO) to adapt its assistance strategies to address the unique challenges faced by countries battling both infectious and non-communicable diseases. President Masisi’s plea came during the 73rd session of the WHO Regional Committee for Africa, held in Gaborone, where he highlighted the pressing issue of transitioning from communicable diseases to an increasing burden of non-communicable ailments.
In his opening remarks, President Masisi emphasized the ongoing health transition that Botswana is grappling with, stating, “We are locked in an epidemiological transition from communicable diseases to an increasing non-communicable disease burden. These include heart diseases that have increased by 31 percent, stroke by 19 percent, and diabetes by 40 percent.”
While addressing the attendees, President Masisi also underlined the transformative potential of the digital era in enhancing healthcare outcomes. He highlighted the various ways digital technology can revolutionize medical practices, from improved diagnosis to data-driven treatment decisions, digital therapeutics, clinical trials, self-care management, and individual-centered medical services.
Additionally, President Masisi urged developed countries to align their assistance with regional and national priorities, calling for the removal of conditions on voluntary contributions. This move, he believes, would ensure that aid is effectively tailored to meet the specific healthcare requirements of each country.
The session saw a joint announcement by Botswana and the WHO, designating the Botswana National Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) Reference Laboratory as a WHO Collaborating Center of Excellence. This recognition was bestowed upon the laboratory due to its remarkable expertise in HIV diagnosis. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus commended Botswana for its significant strides in HIV response, stating that the country serves as an exemplary model for others.
“Botswana achieved remarkable success in the fight against HIV, becoming certified by the WHO for reaching the silver tier on the path to eliminating mother-to-child transmission of HIV in 2021. Furthermore, in 2022, it successfully reached the 95-95-95 targets for testing, treatment, and viral suppression, a feat accomplished by only five countries worldwide,” Ghebreyesus highlighted.
The 73rd session of the WHO Regional Committee for Africa has shed light on the evolving healthcare landscape in Botswana and the broader region. President Masisi’s call for tailored assistance, coupled with the recognition of Botswana’s achievements in HIV response, reinforces the importance of addressing the dual health challenges faced by countries and embracing the potential of digital innovations in healthcare. As the world continues to grapple with health disparities, these discussions mark a significant step toward building more resilient and inclusive healthcare systems on a global scale.