THABA-TSEKA A large number of women in the areas of Sehonghong and Senqunyane Valley have resorted to giving birth at home due to the difficulty of accessing health facilities in one of Lesotho’s many remotest areas.
A collaboration by the MNN Centre for Investigative Journalism and Informative has recently uncovered how the pregnant women and girls bear the brunt of having to walk a whole day to receive clinical services at the nearest Popa Health Clinic and St James Hospital in Mantšonyane.
The expecting mothers coming from several villages in the Sehonghong and Senqunyane Valley walk an estimated minimum of 10 kilometers on rugged paths to reach the health centres and go back home.
For some of them who keep horses among their animal stocks are privileged enough to travel about half a day to the clinics on horseback. A few roads available in these villages are accessible only by four-wheel trucks.
Some of the villagers told this reporter how the pregnant women and girls sometimes travelled one day to reach to villages that are much closer to the clinics,slept over at their relatives’ homes and walked again the following day before reaching the centres.
They did the same going back their respective homes, according to the villagers.
“The situation has left many women opting to giving birth, sometimes with assistance of untrained helpers in the villages,” said the District Health Manager, Dr Rodrigue Mwana Wabene.
Somewhere on the road, four men are carrying a newly bought wardrobe on homemade stretcher from a distant marketplace to the village. They told this the village men did the same for heavily pregnant women and bedridden patients.
“Tell him(reporter) that we do this even for the heavily pregnant mothers and the hopelessly ill people,” one of the men shouted to another during the interview.
They blamed politicians in power for the lack roads and other infrastructures that could simplify their lifestyle.
The men headed to Liqalaneng village, along the Sehonghong plateau, where transport by any kind of motor vehicle seemed impossible.
Tens of kilometers on the other side the plateau are several villages in the area called Senqunyane valley.
The villagers from this area receive health services from St James Hospital in Mantšonyane,which is over 40 kilometers away from most of the villages.
The villagers entirely depend on the manmade stretchers to ferry the heavily pregnant women, severely injured and bedridden persons, according to Leqheku Letšaba, who is the area headman.
In Ha-Khotso, one of the remotest villages in the Senqunyane Valley, what looks to be an ordinary family house has been designated a quasi-health clinic that serves the entire village, thanks to the village health workers.
The facility, however, opens only one day in a week (Thursdays) to serve the villagers.
Health professionals from the distant Popa Health Clinic visit the village once in three months to access the situation and administer treatments to patients.
But for Chief Letšaba and his subjects, nothing is abnormal about the health situation at the village. They lead a normal life, according to them.
“We have lived like this since our childhood. To us, this is a normal a life,” he said.
One of the village health workers, a 66-year old ’Mateboho Senatla, says she has been doing the job for well over 35 years of which she had helped hundreds of women to deliver their babies from home.
“A number of home based baby deliveries has decreased now. The situation used to worse in the past. Home deliveries were rife,” Senatla said.
Built with support of the American-origin Millennium Challenge Account, Popa Health Clinic began its operations in 2013, and Senatla says it has changed their health struggles ever since.
She said they encouraged pregnant women to visit the clinic regularly to receive professional help despite transport challenges.