The use of mobile technology has proven a successful tool to address some of the challenges around access to healthcare services, such as lack of transport, in rural regions of sub-Saharan Africa. In Lesotho, the Vodafone Foundation is building on this success by deploying mobile clinics to rural areas to reach children, adolescents and mothers, particularly in hard-to-reach communities.
Lesotho is made up mostly of highlands where many of the villages can be reached only on horseback, by foot or light aircraft. This means that resources are scarce and difficult to access by mothers and their children.
“For many children and mothers in Lesotho, this could be the first time that primary healthcare services have been accessible to them,” a press statement issued on the state of the country’s healthcare services said. The mobile clinics will offer primary care services, including antenatal checks and immunization.
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The Foundation is also providing mobile money-based transport vouchers to individuals living with HIV so they can reach clinics or hospitals. Moreover, the Foundation is capitalizing on use of mobile technology to enhance its management, coordination of services and communications to support the implementation of its entire programmes in the country.
Lesotho has one of the world’s highest rates of HIV/AIDS with 23 percent of its two million residents living with HIV. Antiretroviral treatments (ARTs), which suppress the HIV virus and stop its progression, are available; however, only a third of the estimated 19,000 children in Lesotho living with the virus are receiving ARTs.
This disturbing trend has informed a coordinated response: the Mobilising HIV Identification and Treatment (MHIT) programme in Lesotho, which launched on Friday in London. The goal of the MHIT programme is to double the number of children in Lesotho in care and on treatment within three years, thereby ensuring that their health and futures are not compromised or cut short through lack of access to HIV services. It also aims to improve uptake of services that address mother-to-child transmission of HIV to prevent more children from being born with the virus.
The MHIT programme is a multi-million dollar, three-year commitment led by the Vodafone Foundation through the Vodacom Lesotho Foundation, with financial contributions from the private and public sectors, including funding and community mobilisation expertise from ViiV Healthcare, as well as support from Elton John AIDS Foundation to Baylor College of Medicine Children’s Foundation Lesotho, ELMA Philanthropies and the United States Government through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
Dr Dominique Limet, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of ViiV Healthcare, said through the organization’s Positive Action programmes, it has a successful track record in mobilising communities and supporting capacity building at grassroots level to address the challenges of the HIV epidemic.
“By working with the right partners, we can deliver practical solutions to make a true difference to the lives of children in Lesotho and help future generations live longer and more fulfilling lives”, he added