MASERU – Village Healthcare Workers (VHWs) in the country, who are on the frontlines of providing health care in mostly hard-to-reach rural Lesotho and have been battling for financial remuneration, will finally receive allowances for their work. The workers have for many years expressed discontent stating that they were assigned without any allowance despite the life-saving work they perform – the workers have been waiting for their remuneration since March when the government made a commitment to do so.
VHW are a trained group trusted to provide basic health services to communities, and have served as a trusted source of primary health care in communities across the country. During discussions in the National Assembly last Friday, and speaking on behalf of the Minister of Health, public service minister, Motlohi Maliehe, said the health ministry has now been given authorisation to pay M800 allowances per month to the VHWs – calculated from April. Maliehe said preparations are afoot to pay out these arrears, noting that all workers would have received their money by December.
Asked whether government appreciates the vital role played by VHW, especially in the current period of various harmful diseases that include the rampant Covid-19, Maliehe said the government appreciates the work that they do, including giving informative education about Covid-19 and the importance of vaccines. He said “they go as far as screening patients for Covid-19 and encouraging suspects to go to health facilities while also doing contact tracing to those who might have met with suspected cases.”
VHWs have long complained of lack of financial incentives in their job, citing this as the main demotivating factor in their work, particularly given that they need money for transportation when they accompany patients to the facilities. “The challenge we face in our work is the issue of not receiving money on time, because major concerns in a person’s life is soap to wash and food to eat. “In addition to eating and washing, it is having shoes on one’s feet, because one cannot work barefoot, especially because some of us come from far to attend to our patients. So, we have to take public transport to accompany patients to clinics,” says ’Mamolise Masoabi, a VHW serving the Matukeng Clinic in Maseru.
The roles of VHWs 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 behaviour change through health education. With the emergence of Covid-19, VHWs were identified as frontline workers and recognised early as a resource in the Covid-19 response hence additional responsibilities were assigned to already existing health related tasks requiring their 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 of personal time and monetary resources.