Health care on wheels
The four-wheeled clinic brings health care to Lesotho's most remote villages. An enormous step forward for the medically underserved mountain population with the second highest HIV rate worldwide.
This mobile practice is the result of a joint project between SolidarMed and the Canadian organization Bracelet of Hope.
Launched in March 2020, the mobile practice is a unique initiative in Lesotho, the very mountainous country in southern Africa affectionately known as the "Kingdom in the Sky." More than 40 percent of the population lives in remote and hard-to-reach villages, and 57 percent live below the poverty line. The country also has the second highest HIV prevalence rate in the world. In light of these challenges, SolidarMed aims to bring healthcare to the country's most remote villages.
The converted vehicle is equipped with essential medical equipment and provides a range of vital health services. These include HIV testing and treatment, maternal and newborn care such as pregnancy exams and important vaccinations for children, and screening and treatment for non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and hypertension.
Having medical services available right at your doorstep leads to better health for everyone. For example, patients now take their HIV medications correctly and regularly. Pregnant women no longer have to walk for hours to their checkups. And older people are no longer excluded from health care.
Manare Jafeta, one of SolidarMed's nursing professionals, has been working at the mobile clinic since its launch in early 2020. She and the driver travel long distances every day to reach the villages. In doing so, they often have to navigate steep and winding gravel roads and sometimes cross rivers and streams.
"We currently drive to 15 outreach sites on a regular basis," explains Jafeta, who herself comes from Lehlakaneng, another remote village in Butha-Buthe." Our patients can rely on us. They have the assurance that they will receive their medicines and necessary supplies every month." While there have been previous visits by SolidarMed with ordinary 4x4 vehicles, but they have not had the same equipment. Many more medical services can now be provided. In addition, SolidarMed works closely with community health workers to identify patients' needs. They have the assurance that they will receive their medicines and necessary supplies every month."
Through the practice on wheels, especially disadvantaged people are reached - according to the motto leave no one behind. For the treating medical staff, the trips to remote valleys are often very arduous. But the motivation is very high. After all, improving health care directly helps the patients. "For example, I once helped a young woman with her pregnancy. When I meet her, she still says today that her baby is also my baby. In such moments, I love my work!" says Jafeta proudly.
Dr. Ravi Shankar Gupta, SolidarMed's project manager in charge of the project, says that despite the challenges posed by the Covid 19 pandemic. Only for a few weeks last year was there a pause when a strict lockdown was imposed in Lesotho and all gatherings were banned.
The mobile clinic has met with a very positive response from the population but also from the Ministry of Health Lesotho and the relevant district health teams, says project director Dr. Ravi Shankar Gupta. "We definitely need to be able to reach more people in remote villages," he says: "But for that, we need more funding." Many mountain farming families in Lesotho's Maloti Mountains have poor health care. With an expanded fleet of vehicles and teams in Butha-Buthe and Mokhotlong districts, they can be reached.
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