The University of Botswana celebrated the World Anti-Tobacco Day in collaboration with the Anti-Tobacco Network (ATN) on May 5 under the theme, ‘Tobacco – a Threat to Development’. The commemoration is on the 9th year. The event started with a 15km walk from UB that was led by the Minister of Health and Wellness Dorcas Makgato. The Fair is also a pre-activity for the World No Tobacco Commemoration (WNTD) that is scheduled for May 31 in Selebi-Phikwe. Makgato emphasised the importance of the event because it sets the tone for the World No Tobacco Commemoration. “It is common knowledge that public engagement demonstrates commitment and willingness by the university to listen and to change as well as provide a safe space for dialogue and debate,” she said. Makgato said it was important that people reflect on tobacco and all the evil that it has caused on the lives of many and yet it is a product many have blindly embraced and welcomed in their homes. According to Makgato, the reason why tobacco is openly sold at the homes and at the gates of primary, secondary and tertiary institutions is because of the deception by its manufacturers. She said it is devastating to see that most African youngsters below the age of 15 smoke. “Unless we care now, these young people will become a health poor generation with early onset of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer and chronic respiratory disease and hitting adults in their most productive years,” she said. She said tobacco contribute to non-communicable diseases which the government is fighting hard about. Chief Finance Officer at UB Ishmael Selebogo applauded partnerships by the University because they want to get away from segregating the government from business and from the non-profit sector. He urged all stakeholders to make sure that the activity does not come to an end.
UB’s Acting Vice Chancellor Professor Kgomotso Moahi said as an institution of higher learning they believe that they can be effective in helping their students bridge the cultural campus community divide by building and engaging more deeply in partnerships with diverse sets of communities to expand student horizons. WHO representative Dr Martins Oveberedjo said the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), which is the first ever international health treaty, focuses on curbing the demand and supply of tobacco. He said it does this through public education as well as monitoring tobacco control valuation. “Evidence is Linking the implementation of the FCTC with improved sustainable development much in in line with the Post 2015 Development agenda also known as the 2030 Agenda or Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). ATN’s Dr Bontle Mbongwe said the fair is usually coordinated through the assistance of a committee of stakeholders from the Ministry of Health and Wellness, health NGOs and other university departments, and these health professionals guide the students in the preparation of health materials including the evaluation and grading of the posters that the students use on the day.