USAID Programs in Lesotho Assure Continuity of Health Care during COVID-19

Speeches Shim

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Countries around the world have been under lockdown for weeks to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Lesotho is no exception. However, even in times of restricted movement, USAID’s projects funded through the President's Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) have been working non-stop to ensure that clients are well informed about available health services available for continuity of care.

Projects like Karabo ea Bophelo, or KB, offer services to orphaned and vulnerable children, as well as adolescent girls and young women who are a part of the Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored, and Safe (DREAMS) program. KB members recently appeared on Lesotho National Television to talk about gender-based violence and violence against children. KB uses different platforms such Bulk SMS, WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, radio stations and national television to disseminate messages.

KB also supports the Ministry of Social Development by providing social workers who respond to cases of violence against children, in addition to providing mobile phones for counselling and vehicles to enable travel to case locations.

KB has offered virtual refresher trainings for case management workers that have included information about violence against children, HIV messaging, and financial education. Workers were then assigned to families for follow-up on health monitoring, COVID-19 prevention, parenting counseling, preventing and responding to violence against children, and HIV counseling.

Virtual case management focuses on support for children living with HIV and includes messaging on children exposed to violence and infants exposed to HIV. Emergency cases, such as violence against children, are referred to the relevant authorities for immediate attention.

Adolescent girls and young women who are part of the DREAMS program have been contacted by telephone and receive weekly messages focusing on key programmatic areas such as sexual and reproductive health, infection prevention and control, and gender-based violence. 

Such continuity of health care is critical in times of crisis. The U.S. Government has committed $750,000 in health assistance to address COVID-19 in Lesotho. Health assistance supports strengthening outbreak response capabilities, including community-based surveillance for case-finding and contact tracing, strengthening laboratory diagnostic capacity, and optimizing case management and infection prevention and control practices at health facilities. Health assistance also supports risk communication and community engagement activities. This assistance builds upon decades of U.S. investments in Lesotho, which total more than $1 billion over the last 20 years, including more than $834 million for health.