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‘Decentralisation key in HIV/AIDS fight’

by Sunday Express
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Billy Ntaote

HEALTH Minister, Dr ‘Molotsi Monyamane, says Lesotho can only bolster the fight against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis (TB) and other diseases through the decentralisation of financial resources and authority to local councils across the country.

Dr Monyamane made the remarks following the opening of Lesotho’s 9th National Assembly on Friday in which King Letsie III delivered his Speech from the Throne emphasising the need to mitigate the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

During the speech, His Majesty expressed shock that Lesotho had regressed in the fight against HIV/AIDS by leapfrogging Botswana in having the second highest prevalence rate in the world at 23 percent. He further noted it was evident more needed to be done to nip the pandemic in the bud among Basotho.

“This development is shocking and a challenge to us as a society. My government will revive coordination work that was being done by the National AIDS Commission in an effort to ensure all attempts to mitigate HIV/AIDS are coordinated by one organisation,” said King Letsie III.

“Government realises that HIV/AIDS, together with Tuberculosis, are Lesotho’s worst enemies. And if we are not careful and vigilant, HIV/AIDS can lead us to extinction as a society.”

His Majesty also identified the need to formulate campaigns to fight high infant and maternal mortality, as well as other non-communicable diseases “that seem to be on the rise lately”.

Speaking to the Sunday Express after the King’s address, Dr Monyamane revealed that his ministry would work to achieve the goals set out by His Majesty through decentralisation.

“As a government, we realised that financial resources and all powers were concentrated in the central government for many years. Since we are committed to service-delivery, we are going to decentralise health services to the districts,” he said.

“Districts should have their own funds which can be used to achieve specific plans in the fight against these diseases.”

Dr Monyamane added  progress had already been made in reviving operations of the National AIDS Commission since its closure in 2011.

“In the past, the National AIDS Commission was not well-structured as it was centralised here in Maseru. We are now going to work with chiefs, church-leaders and community councillors. We need to engage community leaders so they can positively influence people in their localities.

“This would then enable clinics to fulfil their mandate and save people’s lives.

“This decentralisation to local authorities is also meant to ensure all stakeholders have a role to play in saving lives and are able to inquire about why there is no medicine available in clinics and pharmacies so that people can easily access health education,” Dr Monyamane said.

The minister further noted Lesotho’s failure to turn the tide in the fight against communicable and non-communicable diseases was not due to lack of funding but mainly because of the inability to decentralise financial resources and authority to local councils.

“Among the high priority areas we are going to be focus on eradicating as we implement this decentralised plan are TB, HIV/AIDS, post-natal mortality and providing nutrition for children through breastfeeding,” he said.

“We intend to ensure that mothers breastfeed their children for two years from birth and in the event of any challenges, breastfeeding would then take place for at least six months with the babies not consuming anything other than suckling their mother’s milk.

“Mothers should be afforded their 90 days leave from work and use the two hours given to breastfeeding women by the labour code to attend to their babies’ needs as well as ensuring their children are healthy.”

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