‘Majirata Latela and Sechaba Mokhethi
QACHA’S NEK – Rife water shortages in Qacha’s Nek have posed a major setback to childbearing services in the district, affecting mostly communities covered by Sacred Heart Christ the King and Sekake health centres.
Both health centres have since shutdown waiting mothers’ shelters and limited new-born delivery services to emergencies only, forcing ordinary pregnant women to deliver at Machabeng and Tebellong hospitals, several kilometres away from their original centres with the latter across the Senqu River.
MNN Centre for Investigative Journalism and Informative collaboration has, during its recent visit in Qacha’s Nek, discovered that it is almost a year now since the duo suspended their normal labour delivery services due to lack of water, raising fears of soared back-door deliveries and maternal mortality.
According to the World Population Prospects 2015, Lesotho maternal mortality rates stand at 487 deaths per 100,000 live births. This gloomy picture is worsened by water shortages in rural communities like Christ the King where clinics management have been forced to do the unthinkable and turn-away expectant women as they cannot meet basic hygiene needs.
Sources of water to Christ the King clinic have dried up while for Sekake, the community is said to be uncooperative such that they have cut water pipes that supply water to the clinic only because they say they also do not have water.
Dust-covered taps in Sacred Heart Christ the King Health Centre labour room
Dried up water sources for Sacred Heart Christ the King Health Centre
Several attempts for comments from Director Rural Water Supply Lehlohonolo Ntlama were postponed as the officer said he was still waiting for response from Lesotho Millennium Agency before he could give comments on this matter.
Sister Maria Louise Mahase, Sacred Heart Christ the King Health Centre manager told our team that, due to water scarcity and ultimate lack of water during and after childbearing process, they announced in church that the health centre had decided to cease labour operations resulting in fewer patients attending the centre.
Sacred Heart Christ the King Health Centre manager Sister Maria Louise Mahase
“It has been months or even close to a year that we have stopped offering such services but in case there is an emergency, we ask for water from the Convent so that we are able relieve the pregnant women,” she said.
Not only Christ the King is undergoing water access hardships. The team also observed that Sekake Health Centre which is just a few miles away from Christ the King had also stopped offering labour services because of the same issue.
“We have been experiencing water shortages for almost a year now but before we decided to stop offering labour services, we used to hire a car to fetch water from Hloahloeng constituency,” Khahliso Matsitsi, Midwifery Nurse in charge of the centre said in an interview.
Midwifery Nurse Khahliso Matsitsi (left) in charge of Sekake Health Centre at Ha Sekake in Qacha’s Nek
She lamented the water was never enough as they need running water to do labour processes which include washing linen and equipment after delivery. “We at times had to ask pregnant women staying at the waiting-shelters to fetch water from the nearby source,” she said, adding as time went by, the sources also dried out until they totally ran out of water to wash linen or even hands after examining patients.
“Not washing hands is very risky and we are afraid that we may transmit diseases among patients,” she said.
Sacred Heart Christ the King transfers its patients to Machabeng Hospital situated within the town of Qacha’s Nek while Sekake transfer theirs to Tebellong Hospital. Tebellong Hospital’s management confirmed that they know about the situation faced by Sekake, saying they have been receiving pregnant women from the clinic who have come to deliver at the hospital.
The two health centres are owned by Christian Health Association of Lesotho (CHAL) and our team has learned that their plight has been conveyed to the body although they said until this far, there has never been any positive response hence the decision to halt labour services.
However, CHAL through its executive director Lebohang Mothae said they have realised that water woes are not only affecting the health centres but Qacha’s Nek as whole. She added they were nonetheless not aware that the duo has shutdown labour services.
“We told the clinics to announce to the shortage of water to the public and to assist them in securing water. Family members should bring buckets of water for use during labour when pregnant women come to the clinic,” she stressed.
Mothae argued the health centres have no authority or whatsoever to stop giving those services despite the situation they are faced with.
“It should be noted that services have not be cut at the clinic but rather people have been made aware that there is shortage of water at the clinic so that they could extend a hand to the clinics when there are emergencies,” she said denying that maternal services have been shut down.
According to Mothae, the problem of water was reported to Ministry of Water, rural water supply as well as Lesotho Millennium Agency and there has been a promise that it will be sorted but nothing has happened to date.
She said they are aware that the situation might trigger home deliveries but urged people to rather bring water to the clinics so that they could be laboured at a safe place under assistance of nurses