Despite its status as a middle-income country, Lesotho struggles with some of the world’s highest rates of mortality from HIV, TB and preventable maternal and child health conditions. The country’s public health system is also failing to provide adequate coverage of basic health services, particularly in the mountainous and remote regions of the country. This is due to a combination of weak management at district and facility levels, large capacity gaps in the health workforce, and lack of coordination between the public sector, international NGOs, and donors.
In 2014, the government of Lesotho, supported by Partners in Health, began a pilot effort in four districts to scale up access to essential primary health care services and improve coverage and improve health outcomes, especially those related to HIV, TB, and maternal and child mortality. The decentralized primary health care model is being implemented through a combination of village health workers scale-up and empowering district health management teams to deliver health care at the community level, plus strengthening of basic health infrastructure. The initial results of the pilot have been striking, with markedly greater utilization of health services at local health centers, reductions in home-births, and increases in child vaccinations, antenatal care, and HIV/TB treatment.
The Government of Lesotho is now seeking to scale-up the pilot programs to the remaining six districts, and to strengthen leadership and accountability for health outcomes at all levels of government. This means developing a scale up strategy and plan and costing it, engaging the ministries of health and local government, traditional leaders and chiefs, and the top political officials from the prime minister’s office, and including international NGOs and donors as full partners in the reform scale up.
Pharos has provided support to the Government of Lesotho by developing their national primary health care leadership reform policy, an initiative that was formally launched by the Prime Minister of Lesotho on August 25th, 2016. Pharos also costed the scale-up of the reform effort, which will serve as a critical input to mobilizing the necessary resources and coordinating donor and partner activity to increase access to essential primary health care services. The full strategy document was delivered to the Government in October 2016 and was endorsed by the Ministry of Health.
The Lesotho government has financial and human resources that can be deployed, despite the tight budget constraints it faces, for example by reallocating parts of the budget for primary health care that are currently being underspent. A thorough independent evaluation of the PIH-based pilot might also help to reinforce advocacy for the large scale roll out both within the Government and with donors.
Team members involved: Shan Soe-Lin, Dave Matheson, Gabriel Seidman, Tendayi Chipango, Robert Hecht
For more information, contact Robert Hecht at [email protected]