By ‘Majirata Latela
The failure of respective Lesotho governments to provide basic services to communities that live in undeveloped remote rural parts of the country, is being described as a gross violation of such communities’ constitutional right to life.
According to the 1993 Lesotho Constitution every human being has an inherent right to life. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.
It says that without prejudice to any liability for a contravention of any other law with respect to the use of force in such cases … a person shall not be regarded as having been deprived of his life in contravention of law if he dies as the result of the use of force to such extent as is necessary in the circumstances of the case.
Ha Mokoboke is one of the villages in the rural setting of Lesotho in the Maseru district which looks desolate due to lack of developments in the area.
The inhabitants here have never in their whole live tasted the experience of having access to clinics and hospitals, water and sanitation, road developments into and out of the village, electricity and many other developments.
‘Makojane Putsoa, the village chief of Ha Mokoboke says her community is suffering due to the lack of water and road (for automotive transport) to get in and out of the village.
She says her village has on many occasion got attacked by diarrhoea outbreaks due to consuming the water they drink from the two unprotected wells they rely on for water. There are no taps anywhere in the village.
“Our village does not have a single tap. We depend on two wells, with the one closest to the village which sometimes drying up. The only well that does not dry out even in dry weather conditions is the one in the mountain; it takes an hour to walk there and back.
“Earlier this year our community was attacked by diarrhoea because the water from the well was not clean. Some people do not have enough resources to boil drinking water. When you draw water from the well, you sometimes encounter reddish brown worms in the water; the worms are mostly invisible unless you take a closer look at it.
“When people get sick they go the clinics and hospitals which also are far from the village. The clinic is in Marakabei which is a two-hour walk from the village. If you have access to transport you are still forced to endure an hour walk to get to the road to board public transport,” Putsoa said.
She further indicated that due to the absence of a road leading to the village, acutely sick people and pregnant women are carried on a home-made stretcher from the village to a place where they can access the road.
She said even the mortuary vehicles are unable to get to the village. In the event of a death, corpses are carried to the nearest road by hand.
“We also need electricity; can you imagine walking two kilometres just to charge your phone? It means it’s not every time one can get to charge their phone. Sometimes I spend a whole week without my phone battery working. This becomes a difficult time during emergencies.
“Cases of stock theft have escalated and we need to have a way of communicating with the police. Covid-19 cases are reported every day. People who illegally cross into Lesotho and arrive in our village are hardly reported due to a lack of communication facilities. I am also unable to report to the clinic in the event of a sick person requiring any testing or having passed on,” she said.
Transformation Resource Centre’s local governance and community empowerment officer Tšitso Kapa told theReporter that indeed “there are many communities in Lesotho which do not have any developments and, in many cases, the right to life is threatened because they do not have easy access to clinics and hospitals.”
He added: “Those communities, due to difficulty in accessing essential services, live a very disadvantaged existence and we believe even their life expectancy is lower than people who are able to access health services. Some people in those communities die from diseases they could have easily been saved from if they had been closer to health clinics.
“We once conducted a study as TRC when the Covid-19 pandemic became a reality and in many rural clinics we found out that one clinic with very few health workers serves a lot more people than a clinic should do. Most of them had no doctors.
“We also found out that due to difficulty in accessing the clinics some pregnant women do not attend their prenatal check-ups and they only go to the clinics for delivery. Others fail even to make it there as they are forced to walk long distances. Also, they are vulnerable to hostile weather conditions.” Kapa said.
He added that the government is basically not doing enough to develop such communities, suggesting that lack of funding has increased the difficulties endured by the communities. He lashed at the administration for its constant denial that there are communities living in painful conditions like those at Ha Mokoboke.
“There are laws and policies that the government can put in place to make sure that they serve those communities. For instance, the decentralisation policy requires the government to enact laws that would allow for delivery of services.
“The policy is structured in such a way that it gives the powers to the community councils down there to make decisions on what kind of developments they would implement in a certain financial year because they know exactly what they need.
“Through financing and accountability, those local communities will be able to account for their spending. They can be empowered to design projects that may advance their livelihoods. Some of the money can be sourced from big projects such as the highlands water project,” he concluded.
The United Nations Universal Declaration on Human Rights states: “Everyone has the right to a standard of living, adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services.”
The declaration also provides for security in case of physical debilitation or disability, and makes special mention of care given to those in motherhood or childhood.
Goal Three of the sustainable development goals refers to good health and well- being. It notes that insufficient funding for healthcare systems can cause them to buckle under the pressure of growing populations. Lack of access to quality reproductive healthcare including modern contraception and medically safe abortion leads to high unwanted pregnancy rates and preventable maternal deaths.