Community Health Worker Mrs Mateele Masoabi does not wish for anyone to have 10 children like she did. It is for this reason that she at times walks long distances, for hours, to ensure good health, especially sexual and reproductive health for her community.
One drives for around two hours, meandering along the mountains to get to her home at Mangaung, Moremoholo, in Mokhotlong district.
“Whenever I go to Mokhotlong town for our meetings as community health workers, I bring commodities like condoms back to the village, which the community access from the Chief’s place. Even when they are finished I am told so that I can replenish them,” she says.
Her work as a community health worker entails providing support and advice to pregnant women. She advises them to attend pre-natal clinic examination and, after the babies are born, she monitors their nutritional status and weight.
She believes one of the reasons she had up to 10 children was because she lacked information and knowledge about issues such as family planning. In addition, health facilities have always been very far from her village. “There were also many myths about family planning at that time. Some people were saying contraceptives could make you sick, but I have now realized none of that is true.”
She started work as a community health worker in 1992 and is still doing the work, mostly out of concern for the health of her community.
Since then, she has assisted four women to deliver their children but she stopped in 2010 after they were advised as community health workers to rather encourage women to deliver their babies at health facilities.
Mrs Masoabi relates with sadness how in 2010 she was called to assist a woman who was about to give birth. “Her baby was coming out the wrong way, we struggled, until the baby got tired and died.”
She advices young women to breast feed for three years, and use the fourth year to recuperate before they can fall pregnant again. “To achieve this, they should stick to using contraceptives.”
Meanwhile, for 31-year-old Mrs ‘Makarabelo Maliba in the same village, the main reason for her to be having five children is due to the long distance she has to walk before she can get to Masaleng, the nearest place to access sexual and reproductive health services. She would have preferred to have only three children.
Health services are offered once a month at the health post at Masaleng. “Sometimes when I get there after walking for three hours I am given another date. Most of the time I don’t have money for transport to get to Masaleng,” states Mrs Maliba who earns a living out of selling home brewed beer, making around M110 on a good day.
In a bid to reach out to villagers like those at Mangaung, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), in collaboration with the Ministry of Health- through the Mokhotlong hospital, PSI, Sentebale and LENASO organized an outreach initiative to offer HIV and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights services at Mangaung recently.
The outreach session was held at the Chief’s place at Mangaung. The services comprised HIV and SRHR services including Family Planning, condom demonstration, promotion and distribution as well as provision of information on prevention of HIV and Gender Based Violence.