Mpule Kgetsi- Botswana


08/04/2020

Mpule estudied  in Madrid a Master Dynamics of Cooperation, Conflicts and Negotiation in International Relations and Diplomacy within the framework of the Learn Africa scholarship programme  in UAX.

Mpule. Botswana Before there were any recorded cases, the government had taken measures to inform the nation to exercise preventative measures such as avoiding unnecessary travel outside the country, social distancing especially in public spaces and self-quarantine for those that had recently travelled back into the country.

These precautionary measures were suggested after most neighbouring countries had begun to slowly register cases and since Botswana is a landlocked country this posed a great danger to us. Communities and Civil society immediately sprung into action, sharing tips on how to prevent contracting or spreading the virus such as how to properly wash one’s hands, how to greet each other without shaking hands and some set up DIY hand washing stations in public places. There was also a government directive to close all schools.

Now, there is a total border shutdown and cross-border movement and entry is prohibited. The country is also under lockdown and a state of emergency has been declared by the President of Botswana in a bid to prevent what may possibly be an uncontrollable national pandemic. Government Ministers from various sectors that have been or may be affected most by the state of emergency have been holding press conferences to address the nation on what may be done and how the government intends to help assist those that will be affected. If this continues it could prove detrimental to the country’s economy and a lot of lives will be disrupted. What remains a cause for concern are the far-reaching ramifications of this pandemic on different sectors and services, I have tried to summarize some of them as observed below;

  1. The economic impact will undoubtedly be higher as the operation of some services has been slowed down and, in some cases, come to a halt. Tourism for example, which plays a significant role in the country’s economy has largely been affected because of travel restrictions. The country is known for some of its iconic landmarks such as the Okavango Delta, the Kalahari Desert, National parks and Game Reserves. Therefore, a lot of businesses in this area have been forced to retrench employees in order to stay afloat or to completely shut down leaving numerous people unemployed.
  2. There has also been a worrying trend of spreading COVID-19 related fake news. Social media is currently abuzz with news and updates from unverified sources which quickly spreads across various social media platforms causing fear and panic.
  3. There is a growing concern on how the 28 day lock down in effect will still leave a lot of people vulnerable as most are not financially prepared to stock up on necessities that will last during this period. Some unemployed youth who earned income by doing odd jobs and street vendors who can only work outdoors will be greatly impacted by the lockdown. Those who are subjected to domestic and intimate partner violence, especially women and children, are also in very vulnerable positions as they may be confined to the same space as their abusers putting them at even more risk.
  4. In the wake of the pandemic a lot of retailers took advantage of the situation and significantly hiked prices for hand sanitizers selling them at amounts exorbitantly higher than before the virus breakout.
  5. The most worrying is that the duration of the school closures remains unknown, it may only be for a couple of months or for the rest of the year if the situation is not contained. Some students may not have the capacity to be home schooled or have the resources make online learning possible. Consequently, a lot of them are missing out and may have to delay their education.

In general, although there may be some hiccups and it took some time, the Government’s response to this pandemic has been proactive and assuring. The Minister of Health and Wellness has swiftly taken the lead in providing regular national updates. A lot of individuals, companies and even churches have shown support by donating some funds to the national COVID-19 relief fund. At this point, being confined to my house and all sense of normalcy gone, I can only hope that the rest of the country strictly adheres to the lock down and social distancing rules and that we are able to avoid a national pandemic.

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