Washington — The services Mahlape receives at her community health clinic have drastically improved her health — and possibly even saved her life, she said. She receives regular checkups and antiretroviral treatments to battle her HIV. The treatments and immunizations have provided her infant son with a better chance at a more productive future.
And with the recent opening of a new clinic, whose construction was funded by the U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation, Mahlape, who uses one name, is hopeful even more people from her eastern Lesotho community will benefit, MCC said in a press release.
“It’s not cold like the old clinic,” Mahlape said in mid-May, the first time the 19-year-old visited the new clinic in Samaria. “The roof doesn’t leak. It’s much more comfortable. And it can hold more people. I think more people will come here.”
Linking more people with health care is a cornerstone of MCC’s five-year, $363 million compact with Lesotho. The Health Sector Project aims to reduce the negative economic impacts of poor maternal health, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and other diseases by substantially strengthening Lesotho’s health care infrastructure and building the capacity of those who work in the field, MCC said.
Mahlape’s community clinic in Samaria is one of 138 health centers rehabilitated or built under the project. MCC is also funding the staff housing at each clinic along with the construction of 14 hospital outpatient departments, a blood transfusion center, a central laboratory, and residences to accommodate students and staff at the National Health Training College.
Health care is a major concern in Lesotho. Almost a quarter of adults age 15–49 are infected with HIV/AIDS, the third-highest rate in the world. HIV/AIDS and other diseases have dragged down the country’s economy and stifled its attempts to reduce poverty, MCC said.
MCC’s health investments support the government of Lesotho’s efforts to provide HIV-battling antiretroviral therapy by improving a clinic network that can deliver this and other essential health services throughout the country.
The goal is to extend the productive years for Basotho citizens living with HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and other debilitating diseases so they can contribute to the economy.
Mahlape and her son rely on the clinics to stay alive. She receives free antiretroviral treatment from the clinic each month. Her son’s father had died of complications due to AIDS. Her son received treatment during childbirth to prevent the HIV transmission. He has also received his regular immunizations from the clinic.
Several hundred yards from where Mahlape and her son sat in the new clinic’s waiting room stands the dilapidated building that previously served the community. The plaster on the walls is discolored and cracking. Glass is missing from some of the windowpanes. It lacks running water inside the building, meaning doctors and nurses needed to head outside to wash their hands at a standpipe between procedures. During the brutal mountain winter, the temperature inside the clinic would plunge below freezing.
One patient, 38-year-old Mathabiso Matsoele, just assumed this was how a rural health clinic operated — until the Health Sector Project.
“I used the old clinic often and I used to think it was OK,” she said. “But now I know better.”