Free maternal healthcare saving lives in Lesotho

Free maternal healthcare saving lives in Lesotho

Free maternal healthcare service in Lesotho introduced by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is drastically curbing deaths during labour and delivery.

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Phindile Mashaba tried to go on as though nothing had happened after her diagnosis and kept her status a secret from her family.

According to the World Bank, Lesotho has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world with estimates ranging from 600 to 1 200 deaths per 100 000 live births.

The deaths are often due to complications around delivery that can be handled at hospitals but hospital accommodation costs and lack of skilled maternal healthcare workers have contributed to high stillbirths and neonatal deaths in the country, according to Sandra Sedlmaier-Ouattar, medical team leader, presented the findings of the study at the MSF Scientific Day Southern Africa on last week Thursday.

In 2014 MSF introduced free maternal care services at one of the district hospitals in Lesotho that included 15 mobile clinics staffed by family planning nurses and HIV counselors.

After a year of rolling out the project, numbers of stillbirths and mortality rates were compared before and after free maternal care and found that hospital deliveries increased by 55%. The study also saw an increase in referral rates from clinic facilities to the hospital.

The study also addressed the shortages of family planning services in the country stating that religious reasons influenced the provision (or lack thereof) of services in some facilities.

“The Lesotho Department of Health has a huge support from the Christian Health Association and this has resulted in many of the clinics refusing to provide condoms and contraceptives,” said Sedlmaier-Ouattara.

After a year of rolling out the project numbers of stillbirths and mortality rates were compared before and after free maternal care and found that hospital deliveries increased by fifty five percent. The study also saw an increase in referral rates from clinic facility to hospital.

“There were more women taking up family planning services, increasing from  749 initiations to 4077 patients in 2014,” added Sedlmair-Quattara.

Sedlmair-Quattara also added that there is a huge demand for family planning services especially condoms and long-term contraceptive.