By ‘Mantṧali Phakoana
Protection of children against measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases is the collective responsibility of parents, guardians and health providers.
This was said by the minister of health, Selibe Mochoboroane during the launch of African Vaccination Week in Mafeteng earlier this week. This year’s theme is ‘The big catchup.’
The campaign is an annual event commemorated during the last week of April in all African countries.
Addressing scores of people at Thabana-Morena Health Centre, Mochoboroane said that vaccines are crucial to protecting the health of the public from communicable and potentially deadly diseases like polio, mumps, chicken pox and measles.
The minister further indicated that in the 2023/2024 financial year, government pledged to improve primary health care countrywide.
To this effect, the government has adopted primary health care as a policy to ensure expectant women, especially those in rural areas, gain access to evidence-based skilled pregnancy care for the prevention of maternal morbidity and mortality.
“The important component of improving primary health care is preventing diseases. Like other African countries, Lesotho believes that prevention is better than cure. By preventing diseases, we will definitely have a healthy nation.
“It is the best thing we can do for ourselves, our families and communities. We do not have to be reactionary; we have to be pro-active. Let us not wait to cure diseases, let us prevent them. This is a collaborative effort.
“It is not an easy task to treat diseases; it is costly. However, it is easy to prevent them, by taking health services to the people and training our village health workers,” the minister said.
Mochoboroane encouraged all men to support mothers in ensuring that their children receive scheduled vaccination without hindrance.
He further reminded the public that children who have missed their vaccine doses puts other children and entire communities at risk of contracting diseases.
“I’d like to acknowledge the health ministry’s efforts. Two months ago, three confirmed cases of measles were reported in the Botha-Bothe and Berea districts.
“However, today I am proud to say health workers in those districts acted swiftly to keep the disease under control. I also call on village health workers to encourage pregnant women to visit primary healthcare centres for pre-natal care,” he added.
Speaking at the same occasion, World Health Organisation representative in Lesotho, Richard Banda said vaccines are the safest method to protect children from life-threatening diseases.
“Vaccines give every child the opportunity to grow up healthy and reach their full potential. African Vaccination Week showcases the importance of vaccines in all our lives, and how they protect us, young and old, against more than 25 vaccine-preventable diseases,” he noted.
He added that in 2021/2022, Lesotho managed to sustain high coverage of under-five vaccination – above 80 percent – in seven of the 10 districts, despite the impacts of Covid-19.
This showed that Lesotho had will power and resilience to ensure its health systems remain responsive, particularly to children, even in adversity.
However, Banda said there was still a challenge of seven in 100 children who miss getting vaccinated.
As a result, he called on all stakeholders to work together to prevent frequent vaccine stock-outs in Lesotho.
“We still fall short of the 90% coverage for essential vaccines given in childhood and adolescence, as is required by the Immunization Agenda 2030. The ambition to ensure that every child has access to essential vaccines by 2030 is still within our reach if we can act now.
“The UN family remains committed to giving the government of Lesotho the necessary support that is required to ensure supply chain mechanisms are responsive for the people of Lesotho, integrate and innovate for better responses, especially in the context of primary health as well as sustaining the gains made for future generations to come,” Banda noted.
Meanwhile, Thabana-Morena Health Centre nursing officer, Likhabiso Theko has expressed concern at the shortage of staff at the institution.
Theko said unconducive conditions were hampering efforts to achieve quality patient care.
The health facility has six nurses only, four of whom are hired by the government, while the other two were catered for by funders. This is inadequate for the health centre that serves at 32 villages within Thabana-Morena and a few others from Mohale’s Hoek district, she noted.
“The increased workload and understaffing is of great concern, especially when it comes to both primary and secondary health care,” Theko added.