BONELA CALLS FOR PRIORITISATION OF NEEDS OF PEOPLE
WITH DISABILITIES IN THE COVID-19 RESPONSE

 

People with disabilities (PWD) have vulnerabilities and needs that require specific attention under normal circumstances. In emergencies such the COVID – 19 (Corona Virus) pandemic, their vulnerabilities are more glaring and the need to ensure the promotion and protection of their rights becomes more pressing.

It is important to note that PWD are at greater risk of contracting Corona Virus due to their need for touch or physical contact to communicate and interact with the world around them. This is especially true for people on wheelchairs, the blind and partially sighted; which makes following the prescribed hygiene protocols a challenge to adhere to. Maintaining the social distance required to curb the spread to Corona Virus is also a challenge as some of them require intimate assistance from family members and care givers.

Where the Ministry of Health and Wellness (MoHW) advises social distancing, frequent washing of hands or sanitizing and is disseminating information on an array of precautionary measures, available services and status of the outbreak; there is need to acknowledge that access to information is a barrier to acquiring this vital life- saving information. Over the last couple of weeks, posters have been put up detailing the MoHW protocols; none of which have been in braille or large print to ensure that blind and partially sighted people can also read and understand for themselves. This is also true of the permits that can and may be acquired by the public to access essential services including health facilities and social services.

The deaf community has also found itself isolated and with limited access to information. Through the BONELA Legal Aid Programme, we have been made aware that sign language interpretation provided on state media cannot be understood by the deaf community. Information is therefore not reaching the marginalized and vulnerable members of our community.

BONELA recognizes that it is imperative that all activity around Corona Virus is inclusive in nature, does not deepen marginalization or increase vulnerability. BONELA therefore strongly urges the Government of Botswana that as it takes steps to prevent and curb the spread of Corona Virus, should ensure that all members of society, particularly PWD have:

  • Access to adequate hygiene commodities such as sanitisers to ensure that PWD, their families and care givers are also able to adequately follow the requisite protocols as determined by the MoHW. PWD predominantly live on Government aid and it must be understood, given the limitations of the allocated funds, that they need additional assistance procuring health and hygiene commodities.
  • Equal access to information. There is need to ensure appropriate sign language interpretation of all information shared with the public including on state media. Documents which have been designed to ensure access to services for the public during the period of extreme social distancing should be designed in such a way that PWD are able to engage with them all the while retaining their dignity and confidentiality.

For more information, contact BONELA on:

 

+267 393 2516 or Tebogo Gareitsanye at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and follow BONELA on Twitter @bonelaethics and like our Facebook Page BONELA

BONELA CALLS FOR A RIGHT BASED APPROACH AMID COVID -19 CRISIS

In view of government’s decision to quarantine all citizens and residents coming from South Africa per the Ministry of Health and Wellness Savingram MH20/33/VII dated 24 March 2020 as addressed to all Ports of Entry Officers, Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA) would like to make the following observations and recommendations.

While we acknowledge that the Ministry is under duress and has to take decisive measures in the interest of broader public health, BONELA posits that decisions made should still show respect for the rights of those detained and undergoing clinical supervision. These include the right to dignity, right to non-discrimination, the right basic necessities such as food and hygiene, and the right to protection from diseases among others.

 

Greater preparedness for all manner of eventualities is essential and necessary to ensure that the response to COVID -19 respects the rights of those detained there as well as for the general public. The Rights based approach requires us to provide timely, accurate and relevant information to allay public fear, address misconceptions and standardize knowledge of the disease to facilitate a more effective response.

Still in the context of rights, adequate prevention measures should be ensured including the provision of protective commodities such as masks, gloves, sanitizers, soaps for those detained as well as service providers such as Health care workers, Police officers and the Army as well as Volunteers and other to minimize and or eliminate the risk of infection..

 

In addition, psychosocial support should be provided as a co – element and integral part of the quarantine protocols. In that context, Government should consider establishing a COVID- 19 dedicated   call center to facilitate access to psychosocial support, information sharing and dissemination

BONELA further recommends that appropriate measures should be employed to guard against stigma and discrimination both within the quarantine zones and generally in the public sphere in relation to those who had been quarantined and their families.

Another critical human rights imperative is for government to fast track the establishment of appropriate and reasonable accountability mechanisms for recourse and prompt remediation in the event of any violations even in the course of the ongoing emergency situation.

Finally, BONELA calls upon all members of the public wherever they may be to cooperate and take seriously the officially stipulated guidelines and normative standards for preventing new infections. These include;

 

  • Deep and Frequent washing of hands with soap
  • Use of sanitizers
  • Avoid touching one’s face with unwashed hands
  • Social distancing
  • Avoiding social and public gatherings.
  • Avoid unnecessary travel
  • Get the correct information on COVID -19 (The Ministry of Health and Wellness  as produced a standard COVID – 19 Fact sheet and is available in all public clinics nearest to you.

 

For more information, contact BONELA on:

+267 393 2516 or Cindy Kelemi Baeletsi | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and follow BONELA on Twitter @bonelaethics and like our Facebook Page BONELA

BONELA RESPONSE TO 2020 BUDGET SPEECH

Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA) is disturbed by the government’s deafening silence in the budget speech as to what measures have been taken to address continued failure by those responsible, to observe projects implementation schedules, timelines and financial costing projections. 

As such the effect of the present budget is that again; there will be no way of determining what will become of the public spending for another financial year in terms of compliance with stipulated project objectives, schedules and forecast financial costs. This is despite promises made at all the past budget speeches and supposedly novel systems and processes proposed to tackle attending bottlenecks.

The immediate past Finance Minister Mr. Kenneth Mathambo, had submitted in his 2019 budget speech, “I must hasten to say that implementation or slow implementation within both government and the private sector, continues to be worrisome”.

Compounding matters, the Minister of Finance and Economic Development (MFED), DR. Thapelo Matsheka’s speech like the other entire previous budget speeches does not mention specific terms accountability measures owing to failed projects’ implementation.  This is despite the cost of such lapses to the economy and implications for the integrity or credibility of the country’s budgeting system.

Matsheka has said, “Though a significant amount of the budget is proposed for infrastructure development in the next financial year, the major challenge is project implementation. There is an urgent need to put in place measures to address the problem of delayed project delivery if the country is to transform to high income status.”

Further that it was unacceptable that there have been continuous instances where development budget was consistently underspent in spite of efforts to align the annual budget requests with the capacity of the implementing Ministries and Departments.

As a deterrent measure to leakages and lapses, it is very critical that special emphasis be laid on governance not just in terms of written processes but also ensuring that those responsible for project implementation are held to account for every excess at every stage of the projects.

BONELA views the allocation of P7.73 billion to the Ministry of Health and Wellness (MHW) as progressive considering the government’s declared commitment especially since the advent of President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s Administration, to situate health care within government’s human capital development strategy aimed at growing the economy in real terms.

The P7.73 billion is for the provision of drugs, vaccines and dressings, and more importantly to increase access to anti-retroviral therapy (ART).

BONELA further applauds the decentralization of services to the districts through Regional Health Management Teams (RHMT) with a view to strengthening service delivery among communities, involvement of the private sector in service delivery and the development of an e-health strategy to enhance quality, safety and turn around compliance as well as efficiency of health systems and services generally.

It was also announced that guidelines for the standardization and strengthening of the delivery of a minimum health care package will be extended to respective communities through the RHMTs once they are operationalized.

BONELA believes the decision to operationalize RHMTs in the districts would be well served if government can also expedite a realistic review of the systems and processes involved right from procurement up to the point of delivery of services, with a view to enable improvement and effectiveness of the envisaged RHMT strategy.

In the ultimate analysis, BONELA hopes all civil society seizes on the opportunity offered by President Masisi’s declared amenability to scrutiny, to hold government to account on every promise it made by way of the recent budget speech.

For more information, contact BONELA on:

+267 393 2516 or Tebogo Gareitsanye at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  and follow BONELA on Twitter @bonelaethics and like our Facebook Page BONELA

BONELA RESPONSE TO 2020 BUDGET SPEECH

BONELA URGES FOR REMOVAL OF OUTSTANDING LEGAL OBSTACLES AS THE WORLD COMMEMORATES WOMEN’S DAY

Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/and AIDS (BONELA) takes pride in joining the international community in commemorating International Women’s day which the United Nations (UN) officially marked for the 8th March, and to celebrate accomplishments made over the years to positively impact the plight of women, especially the most marginalized and vulnerable.

Against this backdrop, BONELA submits that Botswana can do a lot more to translate the positive legal changes achieved thus far to practical and lasting solutions to existing human rights impediments. BONELA laments what it describes as remaining obstacles in the form of laws impeding marginalized women’s full enjoyment of rights and utilization of public health services provided by government and development partners.

To this end, particular reference is made to the need for the provision of comprehensive Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for women residing in rural areas, sex workers, lesbians and transgendered people. In BONELA’s view this would entail providing women and girls, particularly women in hard to reach areas, adolescent girls and young women with a full course of SRHR ranging from prevention to termination of pregnancy. Comprehensive sexuality education in schools, the provision of contraceptives and prevention commodities such as condoms would also form part of such services.

The delayed ratification and domestication of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) is found to be particularly problematic. Ms. Tebogo Gareitsanye, Policy and Legal Manager at BONELA observed that facilitating the full-fledged promotion and fulfilment of the rights of women with disabilities will remain a pipe dream until the CPRD is given meaning and relevance in the country’s local statutes. A further concern arises from the escalating rate of violence amongst vulnerable women such as sex workers which has been identified as one of the challenges the law needs to address.

BONELA however acknowledges and commends Government of Botswana for forging partnerships with the private sector and civil society that have put in place measures to intensify GBV prevention through awareness raising and educational campaigns, as well as the provision of counselling and places of safety for survivors.

In order to highlight the harmful gender norms and cultural practices and address the resultant negative effects for the ultimate elevation of the rights of women, Government has engaged traditional and Faith leaders in consultative forums in recognition of their roles as custodians of cultural and community norms and values.

It is particularly reassuring that the current national health strategies, cooperative agreements and contracts within government and development partners have deemed it fit to prioritize women as an essential target group to ensure they receive important services they need to lead healthy lives.

This comes against the backdrop of the ongoing review at the 23rd session of the UN General Assembly with special focus on appraising and assessing the current challenges affecting the realization of recommendations of the declaration and the Platform of Action as conceived at the Beijing Summit 25 years ago.

On that note, BONELA calls on all relevant stakeholders to take the Women’s Rights Agenda seriously in order to fast track implementation of the objectives of the Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action recommendations, in particular; to intensify the fight against gender based violence and for gender equality.

The ultimate empowerment of women and the achievement of gender equality falls in line with the envisaged full realization of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

For more information, contact BONELA on:

+267 393 2516 or Tebogo Gareitsanye at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and follow BONELA on Twitter @bonelaethics and like our Facebook Page BONELA

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