Lesotho’s Healthcare Crisis
Lesotho, a land-locked nation in Southern Africa, with a majority of its population living in poverty or constantly at risk of falling into poverty, has an ongoing health care crisis. Lesotho’s health care crisis includes low numbers of nurses and doctors per capita, the third-highest HIV/AIDS rates worldwide, a short life expectancy and lacking facilities for all needed treatments in Lesotho. Recent advancements have brought new facilities and care teams to assist Lesotho’s extremely underprivileged, starting with oncology treatment as part of a more significant movement to improve health and poverty throughout Lesotho.

Lesotho’s Health Care System

Numerous challenges riddle Lesotho’s health care system, many of which are contributing to the ongoing health care crisis. The most recent data shows Lesotho’s government spending approximately 11% of the nation’s GDP on health expenditures, amounting to $105 per person — an incredibly low amount compared to Lesotho’s neighbors. The expenditures are the primary source of funding for the health care system. Moreover, government spending sustains the publicly-owned hospitals and clinics, pays the salaries of healthcare professionals and provides funding for imported pharmaceuticals as Lesotho has no local pharmaceutical production.

There are only 0.9 doctors per 10,000 Basothos (citizens of Lesotho), and no medical or nursing schools exist. For rural Basothos, getting to any of these doctors is an immense challenge. Rural residents of Lesotho — 70% of the country — are at one of the greatest disadvantages in receiving aid in Lesotho’s ongoing health care crisis. Basothos in rural areas are among the nation’s poorest, with poverty rates of more than 60%. Rural Basotho often trek for miles, on a trip that may take up to several days, with the goal of securing an appointment with one of the few doctors in Lesotho.

Lesotho’s Persisting Health Ailments

Lesotho has the third-highest rate of HIV/AIDS in the world, with one in five adults testing positive for the disease. In addition, with HIV so widespread in Lesotho, the nation’s average life expectancy is 54 years. When living in poverty, as many Basothos do, a person is likelier to partake in risky behavior. One form of risky behavior includes transactional sex, a common practice among women in poorer regions, as a method of obtaining food. It results in unprotected sex, which is a leading cause of the spread of HIV.

Women living with HIV are six times more likely than healthy women to develop cervical cancer. Cervical cancer is the leading cause of death in women living with HIV. The lack of treatment for all Basothos means a lack of treatment for all individuals living with HIV, and all women living with cancer as a result.

Lesotho’s ongoing health crisis, with its limited treatment options across the nation, has convinced NGOs, foreign partners and international benefactors to expand access to treatment within Lesotho’s borders.

Lesotho’s Recent Health Care Advancements

International aid has come from the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC), the U.N., and most recently, The Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation (BMSF) to tackle Lesotho’s ongoing health care crisis. The BMSF nonprofit funded a new clinic to treat Basothos living with cancer. BMSF granted Lesotho’s government $1 million to set up the clinic with the proper equipment and ensure that the working personnel have adequate training. The expansion of the BMSF in Lesotho resulted in the nation’s first oncology treatment clinic. Within the first few months, the clinic treated 20 patients and has remained a thriving practice with relatively easy access for those in rural areas.

Lesotho’s health care crisis is struggling to make progress due to the low expenditures the government allocates per person, but the outside assistance is helping Lesotho’s poorest citizens fight for their health. The BMF, the CDC and the U.N. are all providing assistance to end AIDS. The U.N. has acknowledged that it is necessary to end poverty to end AIDS. The international assistance provided brings new hope to Basothos struggling with health problems. As assistance and treatment for HIV and cancer increase, the poverty rate will be able to decrease with more Basothos healthy and able to work. Despite Lesotho’s health care crisis, there is hope. As international aid continues to arrive, more and more Bsothos will see a positive change in their health, economic status and futures.

– Clara Mulvihill
Photo: Flickr

Lesotho's water crisis
Lesotho gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1966 and is one of Africa’s few remaining constitutional monarchies. Although Lesotho is one of the youngest and smallest countries in Africa, it has the second-highest adult HIV/AIDS rate in the world. Surrounded by South Africa and plagued by devastatingly high disease and poverty rates, Lesotho’s economic situation is unique. Water generates significant revenue and growth for the country, with the water industry responsible for roughly 8 to 10% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). However, the Highlands, a water-rich region in Lesotho, is susceptible to the uncertainties of climate change, leading to the beginning of Lesotho’s water crisis.

Lesotho’s Water Industry

The country’s access to abundant clean water led to the creation of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP), with the Highlands’ Orange-Senqu River Basin as the center of Lesotho’s water sector. Lesotho’s water industry now supplies various water-poor countries and regions within the southern tip of Africa.

Contributing more than 3% of the country’s GDP, the LHWP uses hydroelectric power to transfer water from Lesotho to the Gauteng region of South Africa, where water is even more scarce. However, while the water industry brings in revenue, it has also inadvertently created great scarcity for Lesotho’s rural citizens.

Water Scarcity in Lesotho

Lesotho’s water industry involves many trade-offs, including decreased water security for both urban and rural residents. Local communities lack the infrastructure needed to benefit from Lesotho’s water supply. As a result, citizens of Lesotho have limited access to a resource that is historically abundant in the region.

Aside from the inadequate domestic water supply, changes in climate will also affect the long-term sustainability of Lesotho’s water industry. The region has a history of high temperatures, inconsistent precipitation and detrimental droughts. For example, El Niño-induced droughts have created states of emergency that lasted for more than six months. Lesotho’s vulnerability to climate change makes long-term plans to maintain the water industry and improve domestic water access imperative.

Addressing Lesotho’s Water Crisis

Lesotho recognizes its water crisis and is working to reduce water insecurity throughout the country. Developing new sources of water and water treatment, advanced transfer methods and increased bulk resource storage are all tenets of the Lesotho Lowlands Water Supply Scheme (LLWSS). Following Phase I’s completion in 2003, LLWSS is currently completing Phase II of the program. This phase includes further social, developmental and environmental programs that aim to advance infrastructure, dams, tunnels and local hydropower.

The Metolong Dam and Water Supply Program (MDWSP) will likely benefit more than 400,000 citizens of Lesotho and increase the quantity of safe water while also strengthening the water industry. The Lowlands Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Program is an extension of MDWSP focused on improving universal and sustainable access to clean water in Lesotho’s rural areas.

The three aforementioned programs are only a few of the ways Lesotho is addressing its water crisis. Water scarcity is a facet of poverty that many countries struggle to fight. Lesotho is working toward widespread access to clean water through long-term solutions while continuing to grow an important sector of its economy.

Annaclaire Acosta
Photo: Flickr

Growing Industries Improve Lesotho's EconomyThe small kingdom of Lesotho lies in the middle of South Africa, completely landlocked within its mountainous regions. When Lesotho gained its independence from the United Kingdom in 1966, it was established as a parliamentary constitutional monarchy. A majority of the country lives in poverty, relying on subsistence farming and the economy of its much larger neighbor, South Africa. Struggling to stand alone as a country vastly overshadowed by South Africa, four factors contribute to increases in Lesotho’s economy. Industries, such as diamond and textiles, are working to bring the country out of poverty and increase its GDP.

Private Sector-Led Economic Growth

Part of Lesotho’s economic growth can be attributed to the promotion of businesses and industries that are not under the direct control of the government. This initiative was supported more fully by the World Bank Board of Executive Directors, who approved $13.4 million donated to the government of Lesotho to assist with its promotion.

According to the World Bank, “the Second Private Sector Competitiveness and Economic Diversification Project (PSCEDP II) will help improve the business environment through the continued facilitation of reforms to reduce the time and cost associated with doing business in Lesotho, provide easier access to finance, make trading across borders simpler and provide streamlined, accessible and efficient government to business services in order to attract private investment and boost growth.” The PSCEDP II is already seeing growth through economic diversification and an improved business environment, which is crucial for Lesotho’s economy.

The Diamond Industry

The discovery of diamonds made a large impact on the economy of Lesotho, as some of the world’s most valuable diamonds have been discovered there. Mining for diamonds began in the mid-20th century, but a lack of decent finds made the mines close. However, the mines reopened in 2004 when new technology helped increase diamond discovery and the country’s overall GDP. Through the use of diamond exportation, revenue has drastically helped assist the economy of Lesotho. In 2011, diamonds constituted 31% of Lesotho’s total exports.

Additionally, operators of the mines aim to assist local communities. The Letseng mine, world-famous for its priceless diamonds, set aside $300,000 in 2014 to help its local community. This money funded projects to increase living conditions and provide survival training for herd boys. Not only is the diamond industry extremely beneficial for the economy of Lesotho, but it is also beneficial for the local communities and areas surrounding the mines.

The Textile Industry

Starting with a handful of textile factories originating in the 1990s, the textile industry has now become one of the largest employers of Lesotho people, with approximately 50,000 jobs available to communities. The textile industry holds thousands of jobs, primarily for women who account for 80% of employees within the industry. Between 2014 and 2019, the manufacturing sector of Lesotho’s economy grew 34%. Consequently, this increase allowed for a tripling of textile exports sent out to South Africa. By providing thousands of jobs to people, especially women, the poverty levels have eased and the GDP has increased significantly. With the assistance of the textile industry, the increased exportation of products is healing and strengthening the economy of Lesotho.

The Highlands Water Development Project

Lesotho and South Africa created and signed a plan concerning Lesotho’s exceedingly large water resources. This infrastructure project would benefit both countries in the transferring of water and the production of hydroelectricity. The initiative began in 1986 to help Lesotho’s electricity production independence. In addition, Lesotho would gain revenue by providing water to South Africa.

Moving water from the Orange River toward the Atlantic, this project includes the building of five dams and approximately 200 kilometers of tunnels to transport water to South Africa and produce electricity for Lesotho in three distinct phases, the last of which was to be completed in 2020. With this project, approximately 2,000 million cubic meters of water are transported from Lesotho to South Africa every year. This initiative has already helped improve the economy of Lesotho and save money through the production of hydroelectricity.

The assistance of these four factors is working to change the economy to alleviate the impacts of poverty throughout Lesotho. If growth continues with the assistance of private sector-led promotion, the diamond and textile industries and the Highlands Water Development Project, significant hope remains for this small country.

– Allie Degner
Photo: Flickr

HIV/AIDS in Lesotho  Africa may not have the densest population; nonetheless, it is the continent with the most HIV-afflicted occupants. Lesotho, a small country in Africa, currently has the highest HIV prevalence in Africa and second in the world with 340,000 infected habitants. From mountain ranges to river valleys, the division of regions causes the country to face issues regarding giving access to healthcare in every village. Women experiencing exposure to HIV/AIDS in Lesotho, which endangers health and safety. Moreover, they can pass it on to their offspring while pregnant. Phelisanang Bophelong, a South African initiative, works in “improving young people’s access to HIV friendly services to engage in sexual health and working with prison inmates to ensure they have access to HIV prevention and care services.”

Healthcare in Lesotho

Lesotho, a developing nation in the south of Africa, has seen improvements in the health sector. Nonetheless, some civilians do not receive healthcare services. Rural areas are most affected because of the lack of infrastructure, such as roads between villages. The public sector has compromised to expand the healthcare sector to reach the rural population. Between the 2000s-2010, Lesotho reported having 62 nurses and five doctors per 100,000 habitants. In 2011, the government built new hospitals, and more doctors joined the workforce. Lesotho sees a bright future ahead of it with the support of NGOs like Phelisanang Bophelong and an emergency relief plan on behalf of the United States.

Rural Health Initiatives

HIV/AIDS in Lesotho has become an alarming problem, yet the government has relentlessly increased human resources. Other countries have contributed to emergency relief aid, such as the United States through UNAIDS, which aims to help test citizens and provide antiretroviral therapy. Currently, the mission has covered 81% of the communities across Lesotho.

In 2006, Lesotho’s government launched a healthcare program in rural areas that served 90,000 people. The Ministry of Health launched a new program that involves testing and counseling. It introduced mobile clinics to rural areas which have shown positive results.

Phelisanang Bophelong in Lesotho

In Lesotho, about 23.6% of people between the ages of 15 and 24 currently have HIV. A big problem in countries such as Lesotho is the lack of information about sexual health. Phelisanang Bophelong works to encourage young people to become aware of HIV and its effects. Phelisanang Bophelong is motivating the young population to prevent HIV. It is also incentivizing prison inmates to access care services to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS. The NGO managed to diagnose and provide treatment to 200 people with HIV while raising awareness. It has also helped 6,113 young individuals reach out to healthcare services.

While there is always room for improvement, the situation surrounding HIV/AIDS in Lesotho has exponentially improved. NGOs such as Phelisanang Bophelong have promoted sexual health in young adults. This incentive has led to millions of citizens receiving testing for HIV/AIDS while preventing the expansion of it in the country. Meanwhile, relief aid from the United States has prevented illnesses, malnutrition and death in Lesotho. Additionally, the implementation of mobile clinics has given people medical access in harder-to-reach areas.

– Ainara Ruano
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Lesotho
The most recent Trafficking in Persons Report, which the Department of State of the United States issued in 2020, asserts that the government of Lesotho does not meet the minimum requirements for the elimination of human trafficking and is not acting significantly enough to reach them. Aided by the severe lack of financial resources in the African nation, crime and violence can proliferate at a significant pace.

Overview of Lesotho’s Economy

The latest estimates by The World Bank place Lesotho among the poorest countries in the world with a nominal per capita gross domestic product (GDP) of $1,299. Meanwhile, expectations have determined that real GDP growth will average 0.6% between 2019 and 2021 down from the average 1.6% that the country experienced between 2015 and 2019.

Over the last few years, a myriad of factors has contributed to the slow growth of the economy. The overall sluggish global economic growth, especially in emerging markets, the grave instability within the political sphere, the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic woes of South Africa, a country which encircles Lesotho land-wise while being its major trade partner, are the main culprits for the current predicament.

Unemployment remains high at 22.83% in 2020 but the country has made improvements in recent times. Namely, the national poverty rate decreased from 56.6% in 2002 to 49.7% in 2017, led by a 13% reduction in urban poverty. Meanwhile, the extreme poverty rate decreased from 34.1% to 24.1% over the same period.

Overview and Root Causes of Human Trafficking in Lesotho

Despite the lack of consistently reliable data, recent studies show that Lesotho is principally a country of origin where traffickers target women and children to traffick them both internally (from rural areas to urban areas) and externally. Due to the particular geography of the region, most victims end up in the bordering nation of South Africa.

The economic conditions that the last section described greatly influence the occurrence of this type of crime. Impoverished communities, high unemployment, low levels of education and pronounced gender imbalances overlap with an ever thriving demand for cheap labor, thus generating an optimal environment for the spread of human trafficking in Lesotho.

Lesotho offers particular allure to traffickers due to the monetary rewards that human trafficking offers along with Lesotho’s particularly lenient penal prosecutions. In the case of sex trafficking,  Lesotho punishes with fines instead of imprisonment. Occasionally, victims themselves voluntarily cross the border on false hopes of employment and ameliorated living conditions only to fall prey to violence and abuse.

Government’s Response

The U.S. Department of State classifies countries within four tiers in its Trafficking in Persons Report. The Tier rating does not reflect simply the size of the problem of human trafficking in particular places but also the effectiveness of governments’ responses to it. The latest Report downgraded Lesotho to Tier 3, the worst possible classification. This means that the U.S. Department of State did not witness sufficient efforts from Lesotho’s government to mitigate the level of human trafficking during the previous year. The report urged Lesotho’s officials to further investigate, prosecute and convict traffickers through fair trials, adequately invest in shelters and protective services for victims and fund its Child and Gender Protection Unit (CGPU), which is responsible for handling trafficking cases within Lesotho law enforcement.

However, the report noted that some were taking steps to address human trafficking in Lesotho. The government partnered with an international organization and an NGO to conduct awareness-raising activities, it continued to participate in a regional data collecting tool and trained 27 diplomats on trafficking in persons. The state is also backing several projects with the aim of boosting economic growth, such as the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP II) and the improvement of service roads, therefore aiming to solve the root causes behind criminal activity.

– José Miguel Neves
Photo: Flickr

HIV in southern AfricaIn 2006, the Duke of Sussex partnered with Prince Seeiso of Lesotho to form Sentebale, a charity focused on providing psychosocial support for children and young adults living with HIV in southern Africa. It partners with grassroots organizations in Botswana, Lesotho and Malawi and works to improve adherence to HIV medication programs.

Sentebale

“We teach them that this human immunodeficiency virus does not have to be a death sentence for anyone anymore, that the real enemy we are fighting is stigma and the antiquated attitudes that work against young people coming forward when wanting to take an HIV test,” said Prince Harry in a speech during a dinner for Sentebale in January 2020.

The name Sentebale was chosen by Prince Harry and Prince Seeiso. It means “forget me not” in Sesotho, which is Lesotho’s official language. Princess Diana, Prince Harry’s late mother, and Queen ‘Mamohato, Prince Seeiso’s late mother, were both previously involved in work with children who had been affected by HIV/AIDS. The mission of Sentebale is to become the leading organization for psychosocial support for young people and children with HIV in southern Africa.

The Let Youth Lead Program

In recent years, Sentebale has found that social accountability and peer-to-peer support were central tools to bolstering its mission. In March 2017, Sentebale launched the Let Youth Lead program. The program’s objectives are to eventually have all young people in southern Africa know their HIV status, provide and promote peer-to-peer support and help young people to advocate for themselves at the government level. Another goal of the program is to empower these young advocates with the tools to assist their peers and have their voices heard.

“I volunteered because I wanted to help people. I don’t see this as work, I just want to transform people’s lives,” said Pheto Kutmela, a Sentebale Let Youth Lead advocate. Kutmela has been volunteering in Ha Makunyapane, Thaba-Tseka district, where he lives.

These youth advocates have been able to facilitate community dialogues in 30 community councils, where they are able to discuss challenges they have been facing and suggest improvements for going forward. It can typically be difficult for young people to have their voices heard at the governmental level and this program helps create a platform for them to do so, by giving them the tools to engage with policy leaders and address education and health services.

HIV/AIDS Progress in Botswana

Sentebale has overseen some transformative improvements in the HIV/AIDS epidemic over the past several years. In Botswana, HIV/AIDS infected less than 500 children under the age of 14 in 2018 and more than 95% of pregnant women living with HIV were receiving treatment.

Sentabale is in the process of developing a five-year strategy for the organization. In January 2020, it hosted an “initial workshop” to hear the voices of young people and children so that it can shape the organization’s future vision around their feedback. Looking forward to 2021, with a few adaptations in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sentebale will continue to prioritize its commitment toward empowering youth who HIV in southern Africa has affected.

– Katherine Musgrave
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Lesotho
Despite the government’s commitment to Sustainable Development Goal 2, hunger in Lesotho is worsening. Most recently, drought has ravaged Lesotho, exacerbating the problem and diminishing any effects of progress. This El-Niño-induced drought has left Lesotho in a food security crisis, causing 30% of the population to face acute food insecurity. On top of this, 508,125 people in Lesotho are already food insecure.

Pervasive Hunger in Lesotho

More than half of the population in Lesotho lives on less than $1 a day, which is categorized as extreme poverty. Nearly 80% of the population lives in rural areas and approximately 70% of those people engage in subsistence farming. As a result, agriculture provides not only the majority of the food for families but also provides much of their income. Countries with high rates of subsistence farming are even more susceptible to food insecurity than others. When subsistence farmers do not produce sufficient yields, they struggle with no food and no income to purchase food. This can quickly turn into a food crisis implicating the health and lives of many people.

On top of the high rates of subsistence farming, the climate in Lesotho makes it challenging to maintain high crop yields. Droughts are not a rare event. Weather in Lesotho is very unpredictable, with inconsistent rainfall and persistent droughts common. Despite many citizens engaging in subsistence farming, only 10% of the land is arable. Soil erosion is especially pervasive in Lesotho, exacerbated by droughts. All of these factors contribute to the state of hunger in Lesotho and stand as reasons why hunger in the country is particularly concerning.

Negative Effects of Hunger

Hunger can and does kill many people every year. Aside from food standing as a necessity for the survival of human beings, there are other negative ramifications associated with hunger in Lesotho.

Hunger exacerbates inequality, including gender inequality. Women who are food insecure often have to travel long distances to find work. As a result, they are more susceptible to sexual abuse and sexual exploitation. The work they travel to do is often exploitative as well as many become “domestic workers trading sex for money or food.” Annually, women and children are the recipients of 75% of the aid provided by Help Lesotho. They are the hungriest and need the most help.

There is also a vicious cycle of poverty and hunger. Poverty affects hunger and hunger affects poverty. Many individuals can find themselves in a poverty trap when faced with hunger. When people are impoverished, they may not be able to afford food. When people go hungry, they endure low energy levels and struggle to work to earn more money. This cycle has a hold over many citizens in Lesotho. More than 27% of women in Lesotho have anemia. If women do not have access to adequate nutrition, they cannot work. This cycle also impacts the country’s economy as Lesotho loses an estimated 7.3% of its GDP due to chronic malnutrition.

Actions to Address Hunger in Lesotho

To address pervasive hunger in Lesotho, many organizations are making this issue a focus of their efforts. Here are three of those organizations.

  1. The World Food Programme is funding the Lesotho Country Strategic Plan. This plan includes improving food quality and quantity while implementing sustainable farming practices to help guard against future food supply shocks. It features public work food programs and school feeding programs to ensure citizens are properly fed. Most notably, the intention is to allow a transitional government takeover. Because of this, it can be a foundational fix rather than a short-term bandage.
  2. The European Union has commissioned €4.8 million to help decrease hunger in Lesotho. The funding will provide food assistance directly to subsistence farming households affected by droughts and support disaster preparedness projects. Emergency aid from other donors is also needed, however, to provide immediate food security to hundreds of thousands of Lesotho residents. This aid can save tens of thousands of lives.
  3. The Kingdom of Lesotho’s Ministry of Health has its own projects and initiatives targeting food insecurity. One of these is the Lesotho Nutrition and Health System Strengthening Project. The project budgets more than $50 million for the implementation of health and nutrition programs designed to improve food security for the workforce. The government’s commitment to striving toward the second Sustainable Development Goal is reassuring, but it needs the resources to succeed.

Despite all of the work in progress to alleviate the effects of food insecurity and hunger in Lesotho, more can and needs to be done. While many things would help the situation in Lesotho, helping the government gain the resources to succeed on its own is probably the most helpful in the long term. Hopefully, with increased efforts, hunger in the country will decrease in the near future.

Keagan James
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Lesotho
Lesotho is a small, mountainous nation surrounded entirely by South Africa. Since gaining independence from the United Kingdom in 1966, political instability and slow economic development have plagued Lesotho. A high prevalence of HIV further complicates efforts to end poverty in Lesotho. Despite an attempted military coup in 2014, conditions have been improving in the country in recent years. Here are seven factors that affect poverty in Lesotho.

7 Factors Affecting Poverty in Lesotho

  1. Agriculture: About 66% of Lesotho’s population lives in rural areas where the economy is largely based on small-scale agriculture. Many of these people engage in subsistence farming, meaning they rely on a good harvest to be able to feed their families. The success of each harvest makes a huge impact on the lives of millions in Lesotho. A drought from 2015 to 2016 crippled poverty reduction efforts for the next few years, proving the delicacy of this system.
  2. Gender: Households that women run have a poverty rate of 55.2%, compared to 46.3% for households that men run. This is because women are typically denied the same opportunities as men in Lesotho’s highly patriarchal society.
  3. Urbanization: Poverty in Lesotho is more prevalent in rural areas than in urban areas. Urban areas have a 28.5% poverty rate while rural areas face a 60.7% poverty rate. Despite Lesotho’s economic development in recent years, most improvements have occurred in urban areas while rural areas have been left behind.
  4. Education: Achieving a college education is extremely rare in Lesotho – only 4.4% of people live in households with someone who has gone to a college or university. Those that do receive higher education have a low poverty rate of 8.7%.
  5. Government programs: Over the past 20 years, the government in Lesotho has been working with international organizations to expand protections for the poor and increase economic opportunity. As a result, the national poverty rate decreased from 56.6% to 49.7% from 2002 to 2017.
  6. HIV: Poverty and HIV have a clear connection in Lesotho. Almost 24% of adults are living with HIV and treatment is essential to stopping the spread and helping these people live normal lives. Lack of resources and awareness means that on average only 57% of people with HIV are currently getting help. This directly impacts their quality of life and makes it harder to land above the poverty line.
  7. NGOs: Though poverty in Lesotho is an important issue for the country’s government, NGOs are stepping in to fill gaps. Many international nonprofit groups such as Caritas Lesotho operate in the country. Caritas Lesotho is a group that seeks to help individuals escape poverty by teaching them technical skills. They focus on vulnerable children and teach them a trade such as farming or woodworking. Groups like Caritas Lesotho are slowly helping to improve the economic situation in the country.

Examining the causes of poverty in a country is essential in deciding how best to address the issue. It is clear that poverty in Lesotho will continue to be an issue for many years. However, the country is on the right track and will improve as education and economic opportunity increase.

– Jack McMahon
Photo: Flickr

healthcare in lesotho
Lesotho, a small nation in southern Africa, is continually improving its access to healthcare systems. Still, even with greater access to healthcare services in some of the areas that are more difficult to reach, long treks and expensive rides are necessary to receive essential care. Due to the state of remote villages being located far from hospitals, patients are not able to receive help immediately in case of an emergency.

Lesotho is also the only country in the world that has its entire elevation above 1,000 meters, which means the terrain may be harder to navigate and maneuver. The life expectancy for Lesotho averages around 53 years for both males and females and deaths under 5 occur 8.1% of the time. However, despite all these limitations, Lesotho has remained committed to improving the well-being of its citizens. Partnerships with private companies, expansions to the hospital network and increased government funding to aid programs have all been policies implemented to invest in Lesotho’s health infrastructure. These five facts about healthcare in Lesotho are integral to understanding the country’s changing health structures and transition out of poverty.

5 Facts About Healthcare in Lesotho

  1. Lesotho is at an elevated risk for HIV and Tuberculosis, consistently ranking in the top 20 countries by an estimated absolute number of incident cases. Predictions estimate that less than half of the approximate 12,000 cases of HIV/TB co-infected patients are even diagnosed each year, much less treated for their symptoms. Estimated TB incidence is about 724 per 100,000 individuals in the population, the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) reports. Understanding that the necessary objective is to expand TB testing and treatment coverage, Lesotho is working to increase and optimize its GeneXpert equipment to meet the demand.
  2. Partners in Health, known locally to the people of Lesotho as Bo-mphato Litsebeletsong Tsa Bophelo, works directly with the government of Lesotho to reform and improve the healthcare infrastructure system as a whole. After a government invitation in 2006 to aid in Lesotho’s response to the HIV epidemic, Partners in Health expanded a primary healthcare program to reach over 90,000 people at mountain clinics in remote areas of the country. Partnered reform for HIV/TB co-infection began in 2014, with Partners in Health as the primary adviser to the government of Lesotho. Thus far, the expansion of health systems has reached more than 70 health centers and about 40% of Lesotho’s population. With special focuses on maternal and child health going forward, Partners in Health looks to continue Lesotho’s health development.
  3. One of the most unique government healthcare services in Lesotho, the Flying Doctor Service, provides aid by plane to rural areas. However, even in these hard-to-reach mountainous areas, the Flying Doctor Service does more than provide treatment. In addition to emergency medical service, the service also implements healthcare programs and brings essential medical supplies like vaccines to areas in need. The Flying Doctor Service uses Cessna 206 single-engine planes, stocked with stretchers and first aid kits, to deliver care to the people of Lesotho. Even countries like Ireland have supported the Flying Doctor Service in Lesotho, committing to provide flights to Lesotho to assist the aid efforts.
  4. Public-private partnerships have been an essential part of Lesotho’s healthcare development in the infrastructure department. The International Finance Corporation of the World Bank has recently been working with the government of Lesotho to develop hospitals and health centers around the mountainous regions. The Queen ‘Mamohato Memorial Hospital in the country’s capital, Maseru, was recently developed and opened for patients. Replacing the Queen Elizabeth II Hospital, where infrastructure was debilitating and services were poor, the new Queen ‘Mamohato Memorial Hospital is truly world-class. With state of the art operating rooms, a maternal ward, nursery, Intensive Care Unit and other services, the new hospital built with help from a $6.25 million grant from the World Bank Group.
  5. In 2016, the maternal mortality rate in Lesotho was about 618 deaths per 100,000 live births. Though this mortality rate is favorable when compared to the 2014 statistic of approximately 1,024 deaths per 100,000 live births, it is still too much too high for Lesotho. This exceptionally high maternal mortality rate is a result of the poor services provided during pregnancy, childbirth and after delivery (especially to those in rural areas of Lesotho). Postnatal care is also imperative to ensure the safety of the mother and child after delivery but only around 62% of mothers and 18% of newborns receive the recommended treatment.

In the fight against poverty and for a stronger healthcare system, Lesotho has much work to do. There has been progress on the infrastructure front and with public-private partnerships but many services to the rural population still lag behind what is necessary. However, with continued government support and increased foreign aid, the healthcare system will continue to develop and Lesotho can become a country that provides a robust healthcare system for its growing population.

– Pratik Koppikar
Photo: Pikist