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Access to healthcare in remote areas ‘key’

by Sunday Express
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Limpho Sello

THE United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) says strengthening access to sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services for remote communities is vital to winning the fight against HIV.

This was said by UNFPA Regional Director for East and Southern Africa, Dr Jullita Onabanjo, during a handover ceremony of a mobile clinic for Maputsoe SDA in Maseru on Friday. The clinic was presented to Health Minister Dr Molotsi Monyamane.

The mobile clinic, which is equipped with a refrigerator and generator enabling it to work 24 hours a day, is meant to help the health facility provide SRH and HIV services to Maputsoe factory workers.

The clinic is also earmarked for women and young people living in hard-to-reach areas.

Maputsoe SDA Clinic was also among five health facilities that piloted the Linking HIV with Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights project aimed at strengthening the country’s health systems.

The project was supported by the European Union as well as the governments of Sweden and Norway, to promote efficient and effective linkages between sexual and reproductive health as well as HIV prevention services.

Dr Onabanjo said the UNFPA and Ministry of Health had partnered to provide sexual and reproductive health and HIV prevention services to hard-to-reach communities such as textile workers.

“Garment factory workers represent a significant proportion of the labour force in Lesotho with 40 000 workers,” she said, adding HIV-prevalence among factory workers remained at 42.7 percent compared to the national rate of 23 percent.

“The majority of them are young women of reproductive age who have migrated from rural to urban areas. Due to the women’s very hectic work schedule and implications on their salaries, if they should take time off, the majority of factory workers are reluctant to attend mainstream health services at the nearest facilities – even during pregnancy – which adversely affects their health.”

Dr Onabanjo noted when women and families need to make hard choices about how they would spend their limited resources, “it is highly unlikely that seeking healthcare services will take precedence over spending on food, transport and water”.

“It is for this reason that we expect the mobile clinic to support the health centres in providing high quality SRH and HIV prevention services to garment and factory employees at their places of work, as well as to the women and young people in hard-to-reach areas through outreach services,” she said.

“Data tells us that Lesotho has a maternal mortality ratio of 1024/ 100 000. According to the UN Maternal Mortality Estimation Inter-agency Group Report on trends in maternal ratio from 1990 to 2015, Lesotho ranks eighth out of 23 countries in the East and Southern Africa region with respect to high maternal mortality rates.

“Additionally, Lesotho is among the six countries with the slowest progress in the annual average rate of reduction of maternal mortality in the eastern and southern African region. Therefore, much remains to be done in the country’s efforts to reduce maternal mortality and to provide the requisite information and services to prevent HIV infection.”

In his remarks, Dr Monyamane said the mobile clinic would alleviate the workload of health facilities in Maputsoe.

“The mobile clinic will assist a great deal since health professionals are always overwhelmed with long queues of people seeking treatment. It will also serve people in hard-to-reach areas without them needing to go to conventional health facilities,” Dr Monyamane said.

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