Reprieve at last for village health workers



MASERU – The long-overdue compensation challenge for Village Health Workers (VHW) is being addressed by verifying data for stipend or allowance payments and reviewing the VHW policy to align with primary healthcare objectives. The Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Dr. Retšelisitsoe Matlanyane revealed this while presenting the mid-term budget speech for the 2023–2024 fiscal year on Wednesday this week.

The health sector, she said, is committed to achieving universal health coverage and improving primary healthcare. Matlanyane said the government spent M882 million to support the mission, including in subsidies for non-financial institutions and essential health service procurement.

The minister added that through the ‘Hlasela Lefuba’ initiative, the government conducted TB screening and initiated treatment for 286 patients in every district, while new health posts have been established in key areas to enhance primary healthcare services.

VHW are important in addressing healthcare challenges in underserved areas by helping improve healthcare access, delivering preventive services, building community trust, and reducing health disparities, thereby contributing to overall community health and well-being.

They had long cited a lack of consistent financial incentives as a demotivating factor in carrying out their mandate, among them a lack of resources and money for transportation when they accompany patients to the facilities.

Their other major challenge was not receiving their stipends on time. ’Maatang Leroba, a village health worker said it is a good thing when the government, through the Ministry of Health, prioritises both their needs and patients’ health needs. She said with their grievances addressed, they should be able to work tirelessly towards their goals, making sure that they give proper healthcare to Basotho. “Some of us are committed to doing this work, with or without funds, and we have stayed,” said Leroba.

She further noted: “Not because we have money, but because we love what we do, and we will continue to do our work. We just need motivation in the form of financial support and resources from our ministry.”

Village Health Workers’ roles in health promotion range from offering basic first aid and home-based care to increasing access to health care services by taking patients to the facilities and promoting behavioural change through health education.

During the outbreak of COVID-19, they were identified as frontline workers and recognised earlier on as a resource in the COVID-19 response hence additional responsibilities were assigned to already existing health-related tasks requiring attention on a daily basis.

The COVID-19 response came with increased amounts of data to be collected and quickly analysed, with frequent engagement on tasks required hence they became more obligated to the assignment, losing more personal time and monetary resources.

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