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As Botswana studies its growing vulnerability to climate change, health risks associated with a changing climate have come to the forefront. Higher temperatures and less frequent and predictable rain have hurt crops and nutrition, which is essential for strengthening the immune system against HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. Meanwhile, higher carbon dioxide levels are enabling the rapid spread of malaria to mostly women and girls.

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SELIBE-PHIKWE, BOTSWANA – Segwabe Morathi, a retired religious minister, works as a farmer in a village on the outskirts of Selibe-Phikwe, a small mining town in eastern Botswana. He says farming is not easy in Botswana, where a semiarid desert means that the weather is unpredictable. A changing climate has only made rain more unreliable, he says.

Morathi says he has spent precious time ploughing his field with the expectation of more rains, but to his disappointment, the intense heat has consumed all the young seedlings.

Across the country, rain has become less frequent, while intense heat – tempatures can reach higher than 104 degrees Fahrenheit – continues to cause a multitude of problems for both people and industries.

Experts here say that malnutrition and undernourishment that result from unpredictable crop yields leave people with perilous health conditions, such as HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, even more vulnerable. One in four adults in Botswana is HIV-positive, giving it the world’s second-highest HIV-prevalence rate.

While rain in the south varies, Morathi says that the northern part of the country has received a lot of rain. He says that the area – home to the Okavango Delta, where a river empties into a swamp spanning 11,000 kilometers – is a breeding ground for mosquitoes, leading to more cases of malaria. Throughout Botswana, women and children are the ones who are most prone to malaria because they are the ones who search for food, fish in the rivers and transport tourists in their canoes.

Morathi says that Botswana has four regions – north, south, east and west – and that each has different weather, which makes it hard for the government to create a plan.

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