Partners in Health
Granting healthcare to the poorest: an act of solidarity, rather than charity alone
Lesotho is still home to some of the highest prevalence of HIV/ AIDS and tuberculosis (TB) in the world. The rate of HIV infection among adults is one of the highest in the world at 23%. And as it has taken its toll, the country has also suffered rising rates of maternal mortality, poor child health, and tuberculosis. These dual epidemics, coupled with limited infrastructure and difficult terrain, have posed significant challenges for both patients and healthcare workers, especially in the country’s most rural districts. To reach health services, people struggle through harsh weather and mountainous terrain, walking an average of four hours to reach clinics. Without enough staff and resources, doctors struggle to cope.
Known locally as Bo-Mphato Litšebeletsong tsa Bophelo, Partners in Health began working in the country in 2006 at the invitation of the Ministry of Health. Operating in seven remote mountain communities, they train community health workers to regularly visit pregnant women at home to check on their health, and to accompany them to health centers for care before, during, and after delivering their babies. At the same time, they treat young children with HIV, tuberculosis, and malnutrition, and provide them immunizations, de-worming treatments, and vitamins.
Nkau is one of seven remote health centers across Lesotho that are involved in Partners in Health’s Rural Health Initiative. The initiative began in 2006 as an effort to support HIV care, but over the years, it has expanded, adding services focusing on maternal health, children’s health, and tuberculosis. For instance, the Maternal Mortality Reduction Program, began in 2009, when at the time just 5% of the region’s childbirths took place at a healthcare facility. Today, the facility-based delivery rate averaged 90% across the region. Safe childbirths are just a part of the personal care that Khasipe and her colleagues help deliver at Nkau, every day. Here, newborns get immunizations and other postnatal services, free of charge. Moreover, village health workers travel widely to visit new and expecting mothers in their homes. They advise pregnant women who live far from the clinic to come and stay in maternal waiting homes until their babies are safely born. They receive consistent prenatal care, and doctors can more easily identify medical complications as women approach their due dates.
By drawing on on the resources of the world’s leading medical and academic institutions and on the lived experience of the world’s poorest and sickest communities, Partners in Health bring the benefits of modern medical science to those most in need of them and to serve as an antidote to despair. Building health systems that grant access to healthcare to the most remote communities is both a medical necessity but also a moral duty. It must be seen as an act based on solidarity, rather than charity alone.