This summer I have had the opportunity to travel to Botswana to participate in global health work and contribute to research investigating the use of telemedicine technology for various healthcare applications. This is the first in a what I hope will be a series of blog entries in which I will discuss health care and medical issues in Botswana.
The majority of the 1.84 million population are Setswana (or Tswana) and are concentrated along the eastern part of the country due to the largely uninhabitable Kalahari Desert which occupies most of the rest of the territory. 35% of the population are 0-14 years old; 61% are 15-64 years old; and only 4% of the population is older than 65 years.
70% of people living in Botswana are Christian, 7% have indigenous beliefs, and 20% have no religion. While English is the official language, Setswana is still widely spoken and many older Batswana only speak Setswana.
Formerly known as the British colony of Bechuanaland, Botswana gained independence from the British in 1966, but has a long history of democracy through the tribal meetings of the kgotlas. The country is now a stable democratic parliamentary republic and has a market-based economy among the strongest in Africa. Most of Botswana’s wealth comes from diamond mines most of which are co-owned by DeBeers and the Botswana Government. Beef exports and tourism also contribute to the economy. Despite this socio-economic stability, poverty remains a concern with a large gap between rich and poor existing and unemployment remaining close to 40%. Education and healthcare are free, and the national literacy rate is greater than 80%.
For more general information about Botswana, check out the Botswana Tourism Board and check back for more entries!