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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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