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A worthy collaboration



MAFETENG – As the Covid-19 pandemic spread across the world, governments scrambled for ways to react. None of them was prepared for a disease that spread with such speed and ease.

The pandemic was threatening to upend economies, some of which were already fragile.

The lockdowns that followed revealed that no economy or country is immune to a global disaster of such magnitude.

Countries closed their borders and announced hard lockdowns that confined people to their homes.

Businesses closed their doors, cutting off millions from their livelihoods.

Trade came to a halt. Schools were next to shut their doors. Parks, churches, cinemas and malls were deserted. The world was at a standstill.

Public clinics and hospitals were overwhelmed by patients. Doctors and nurses were fighting an aggressively contagious disease without gloves, masks and coveralls to protect themselves and their patients. Beds and ventilators quickly ran out.

In their haste to deliver the much-needed resources to state hospitals, most governments overlooked the private health centres that were playing a vital role in the battle against the disease.

In Lesotho, most private health facilities found themselves hopelessly ill-prepared to deal with the pandemic.
’Masenate Phosholi, a nurse who runs Tšepong Clinic in Mafeteng, recalls those desperate times.

“Patients were coming in and we did not know how to handle them,” Phosholi says.

“We were fighting the pandemic with very little knowledge and no protective clothing at all.”

Small private facilities like Tsepong Clinic that get by on shoestring budgets could not afford basics like masks, gloves and sanitizers.

It didn’t help that the global demand and lack of production capacity had triggered a surge in the prices of protective clothing.

Governments, already facing financial pressures of their own, were also battling to keep up with both the demand and the galloping prices.

“It was as if we were on our own,” Phosholi says.

She says the situation at the clinic started improving late last year when they received assistance from the Global Health Access Initiative (GHAI), under the World Health Organization (WHO)’s Access to Covid-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) Project.

A global humanitarian organisation, GHAI focuses on health challenges and inequalities in areas where poverty, disease burden, fragile systems and poor access inhibit universal health coverage.

The ACT-A project, funded by the Canadian government, is a global collaboration to accelerate development, production, and equitable access to Covid-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines.

It seeks to speed up an end to the pandemic by supporting the development and equitable distribution of the tests, treatments and vaccines to reduce mortality and severe disease.

GHAI was one of the four local organisations that received funding under the project.

It focused on increasing access to safe, quality and affordable Covid-19 diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines in Quthing, Mafeteng and Butha-Buthe, Maseru and Leribe.

The first goal was to create systems to integrate the private and public sector in the Covid-19 response effort. The second was to strengthen the response systems of 28 health facilities in those districts.

The third was to build capacity on infection prevention control for community-based frontline health workers.

Tankiso Phori, the programme director of GHAI, says the project trained 104 health workers at 32 centres.

“This was a critical intervention because private health centres felt they had been left out in the fight against the pandemic,” Phori says.

“Staff at some private health centres did not get the training to respond to Covid-19.”

He says apart from training the health workers, GHAI also provided sanitizers, coveralls and masks to the centres.

Mantsejoa Mahlakeng, a counsellor at Tšepong Clinic, says the training and PPE from GHAI came when they were desperate.
“We were struggling,” Mahlakeng says.

’Malebohang Piseng, a counsellor and administrator at Dr Rathebe’s surgery in Mafeteng, says before the Act-A project they did not have Covid-19 guidelines and sanitizers.
“The help from Global Health helped us to protect ourselves and the patients,” Piseng says.

’Manapo Ramaboto, a nurse at Naleli Family Clinic in Maseru, says before the assistance from GHAI they were struggling to respond to the pandemic.
“After the training, I can say we are ready to handle Covid patients,” Ramaboto says.

Staff Reporter

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