Washington — The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), through its partnership with the Millennium Challenge Account–Lesotho, is helping Lesotho address key challenges in its health sector through a $122 million investment in health infrastructure and health systems.
More than 720,000 Basotho are expected to benefit from the MCC health project over the next 20 years. MCC described the ways its investment in health is helping in Lesotho in a December 1 press release.
In Lesotho, it is common to see dozens of men and women lined up and waiting for an appointment at dilapidated health centers, the release said. A man or woman with HIV/AIDS or other diseases may walk hours to get to the closest clinic, spend all day waiting in line and then be forced to return home without seeing a doctor.
Twenty-three percent of Lesotho’s population is infected with HIV/AIDS — the third-highest rate in the world. According to the Lesotho Bureau of Statistics, life expectancy in 2006 was estimated at 39.7 years for men and 42.9 years for women. Of those patients infected with HIV/AIDS, as many as 96 percent also have tuberculosis (TB), the top killer of HIV-positive Basotho.
A significant portion of MCA-Lesotho’s health project is dedicated to rehabilitating 138 health centers that play a pivotal role in providing primary health care to residents in communities across the country. The Domiciliary Clinic, the project’s first rehabilitated health center, located just outside Maseru, opened in July 2010.
At the launch of the Domiciliary Clinic, Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili called the new health center “not only evidence towards improved health outcomes, but an assurance that we are promoting economic growth by providing health services.” According to one of the center’s nurse clinicians, while it used to serve, on average, 250 patients a day, it now serves 700.
“The building is nice and clean, and patients no longer worry about getting infected with other diseases while in the clinic,” said Mathabiso Kopung, who has been going to the Domiciliary Clinic since the early 1980s. “Before, there was no time for the doctor to meet with us. But now, I get a thorough checkup on my overall health.
“The service is excellent, because after my consultation with a doctor, there is a department that checks our prescriptions to ensure that the medications prescribed are correct,” Kopung said.
MCC is helping to expand outpatient services in 14 hospitals, which will increase access to tuberculosis and antiretroviral treatments.
MCA-Lesotho also will build and equip a new National Referral Laboratory for improved laboratory and diagnostic services, a new National Blood Transfusion Service Center to assure adequate and safe blood supplies for HIV/AIDS patients, and a 120-bed dormitory and housing for teachers to increase the number of health professionals attending the National Health Training College. These major improvements will help Lesotho manage and prevent HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis pandemics in a sustainable way.
MCC is providing technical assistance to support the government of Lesotho’s initiative to decentralize the health sector. This health decentralization is a pilot project that could be applied to other sectors in Lesotho. Human resources capacity in Lesotho’s health sector is weak, so MCC is funding a program to help the government attract and retain quality health care personnel.
MCC funds are also supporting the development of a health management information system to improve evidence-based decisionmaking in the health sector. And MCC is working on a health care waste management system to ensure that medical waste is controlled and disposed of in a hygienic and environmentally safe way.
This work, carried out in partnership with other donors, strengthens national access to quality health care services in Lesotho, whose scenic mountains present a logistical challenge.