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Office of the President (OP)
Inside the Presidency-Issue No 23
03/12/10

Welcome to your weekly window into the Presidency. This week his Excellency the President, Lt. Gen. Seretse Khama Ian Khama,  was joined in Palapye by the Honourable Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration, Lesego Motsumi, and other members of Cabinet, distinguished guests and the members of the public in marking World’s AIDS Day. As one of the countries most heavily impacted by the HIV virus the annual event has come to have special significance to Batswana as an opportunity to reflect on the continued challenge of achieving the ultimate vision of realising an AIDS free society.   

Addressing the nation on this long term struggle, His Excellency was able to report progress, while expressing his continued deep concern on the persistence of the epidemic and its largely behavioural enablers.
 
In terms of progress, currently up to 97% of infants born to HIV positive mothers are free of the virus. This notable achievement is in large part due to the sustained efforts Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission programme, whose coverage has increased from 34% of mothers in 2003 to its present level of 95%.

The President also observed that, with over 151, 000 people on treatment, Botswana’s ARV programme has now succeeded in covering almost all those who have registered for assistance. As a result, according to the latest estimates, the annual number of AIDS related deaths has declined from about 15, 000 in 2003 to about 6,000 in 2010.

Notwithstanding such milestones, His Excellency one more stressed the need to move beyond treatment to the collective behavioural change, based on self-responsibility and mutual accountability. In this respect, he further observed that the HIV/AIDS budget, which stood at P 1.3 billion in 2009/10, would eventually become unsustainable.

Also on the President’s calendar was yesterday’s commissioning of the new Foot and Mouth Disease Laboratory of the Botswana Vaccine Institute (BVI) Pty Ltd, which is expected to play a key role in securing the local livestock industry.

The BVI, which was originally established as an emergency Government project in response outbreaks of foot and mouth disease, was incorporated as a company in 1979. Since then it has successfully developed and marketed worldwide effective livestock vaccines. 

The new facility has been built to ensure that BVI, as the main supplier of FMD vaccines in the region, has the capacity to meet the increasing demand for its products and services. The total cost of the project, in excess of P200 million, was raised from Capital Markets.

In his remarks, the President expressed his appreciation that the new laboratory was the first of its kind in Africa, adding that:
 
‘When running at full capacity the new facility will double production to about 24 million doses annually of a more purified FMD vaccine.  A purified vaccine enables the differentiation of FMD infected from uninfected vaccinated animals - something which has not been possible with the old vaccine because it contains impurities.”

As a result, he further observed, countries using the new vaccines can become recognized “FMD free with vaccination status”, whereas with the old vaccine countries were only eligible to attain such status by means other than vaccination.  The new vaccine will thus open doors for access of beef from vaccinated animals to global markets.

The President’s routine engagements during the past week included briefings by the Ministries of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources, Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and Infrastructure, Science and Technology, as well as the Offices of the Ombudsman and the Central Transport and meeting of Cabinet.

Today, the Ministry of State Presidency through its Coordinating Office for People with Disabilities, will be spearheading Botswana’s observance of the International Day for People with Disabilities (3/12/10).

The Commemoration will kick start at 0700 hours with a walk from Gaborone West Mall to Gaborone West Community Hall, where the ceremonies will take place from 0800 hours.

The Keynote Address will be delivered the Minister for Presidential Affairs and Public Administration who will speaking on this year’s theme – “Keeping the Promise: Mainstreaming Disability in the Millennium Development Goals Towards 2015 and Beyond.”

International Day for People with Disabilities was established by the United Nations in 1982 with the aim to promote greater understanding of disability issues.

In other news, the Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism, the Hon. Kitso Mokaila reaffirmed that Government and local Barsarwa and Bakgalagadi communities continue to be actively engaged in resolving outstanding issues affecting the future development of the Central Kgalagadi Game Reserve in the context of the past High Court decisions. Speaking at a recent HATAB conference, the Minister observed that the consultations were advancing despite the efforts of a UK organisation - Survival International - to try to undermine the process.

In recent interviews with various local media the Director of Survival International is reported to have admitted that his organisation has not even sought, much less obtained, the permission or input of the people they call “Bushmen” for their campaigns against Botswana.  

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