Lesotho: Partnering to Improve Healthcare in Lesotho (November 2009)

The U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) are working in partnership with the Government of Lesotho to improve essential health services including prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT), increased access to medications, and scale up of HIV/AIDS prevention, care, and treatment for those infected by tuberculosis. Through this partnership, the MCC Compact Health Program in Lesotho will strengthen the nation's health sector infrastructure and contribute to the scale-up of health care in the country.

Under this health project, MCC has committed up to $122 million to support infrastructure renovations and strengthen health systems in Lesotho. The project will support the rehabilitation of up to 150 existing health centers and 14 district hospital out-patient departments over a five-year period.

Currently, half of these facilities receive subsidies and in-kind drugs and pharmaceuticals by the Government of Lesotho in exchange for free or low-cost delivery of essential services to pregnant women, infants, and those at risk for HIV/AIDS.

By improving the conditions of these facilities and increasing access to essential services in health centers, MCC will contribute to safer birth deliveries and increased PMTCT efforts, among other health care benefits.

As of 2007, more than 90 percent of Basotho women attended antenatal clinics during their pregnancy. An estimated 40 percent of these women were HIV positive, and 83 percent received a prophylactic treatment which decreases the chances of transmission of HIV from mother to child. Despite these impressive statistics, it is estimated that only 50 percent of Basotho women deliver their children in health facilities, leaving half of the female population without access to HIV prophylaxis and other delivery essentials.

To address this, PEPFAR will scale up its PMTCT efforts in Lesotho to increase the likelihood of more children being born HIV-free, and at the same time to provide access to HIV treatment and care services.

"The PEPFAR/MCC synergy will result in fewer babies being born with HIV, and more children of HIV-positive mothers living long and healthy lives," said Katie Crowley, the PEPFAR Coordinator in Lesotho.

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