Women in Lesotho face numerous obstacles to obtaining maternal care, and this poses severe risks to their health.
The country is mountainous and has few roads. Many people in remote rural communities cannot afford transportation costs to health facilities. There is also a shortage of skilled health workers. Consequently, about 50 per cent of women deliver their babies at home. Another challenge is the high prevalence of HIV in Lesotho – it is 27 per cent among pregnant women. HIV, along with tuberculosis (TB) co-infection, contributes to high rates of maternal death. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) continues to focus on improving access to maternal medical care and family planning, as well as to treatment for people with HIV.
Family planning services, ante- and postnatal care and emergency services are offered at the MSF-supported St Joseph’s district hospital in Roma, six health clinics in the lowlands and three clinics in remote Semonkong. An average of 133 babies were delivered each month at St Joseph’s and more than 230 women were accommodated at the nearby maternity lodge, where they can come to give birth. MSF also has an ambulance to transport patients to the hospital for emergency treatment.
MSF trains and mentors local staff at these facilities to provide integrated care for patients co-infected with HIV and TB. Local counsellors and community health workers initiate and follow up antiretroviral (ARV) treatment. More than 1,550 people were started on ARVs in 2014. Viral load monitoring – an important laboratory measure of HIV in the blood that can indicate treatment success or failure – was also expanded.
Year MSF first worked in the country: 2006 | msf.org/lesotho