‘We were born to die on horseback’

‘We were born to die on horseback’

’Makhotso Rakotsoane

LERIBE – CLAD clad in their grey blankets the youths would burst into song.
With much gusto they would sing and dance, stomping the ground, whilst holding their traditional fighting sticks.
“Ba itse ke palame ke shoelle pereng”, they chanted.
That song is an old song sung during initiation songs to mark their graduation from being mere boys into men.

Loosely translated, the song says: “I was born to die riding on horseback”.
That song, sung at initiation songs, has been the reality, literally, for many people living in Ha-Sepinare and surrounding villages in Leribe.

For as long as they remember, most villagers here, particularly the men, have had to literally travel far and yonder in search of the amenities of life to sustain their families. Most travelled as far as the gold mines in Johannesburg, burrowing in the depths of Mother Earth.
And so for the villagers in Ha-Sepinare, dying on horseback has loomed as a constant reality.
They have seen their sick loved ones dying on horseback while they were being taken to a far away clinic, over 35 kilometres away on the other side of Katse Dam.

With no roads and the shortcuts they used before the construction of Katse Dam some 30 years ago covered by the dam, the villagers were forced to ride on their horses to go to Ha-Lejone’s ’Mamohau Hospital.
The only other clinic that is close, Katse Clinic, was built as compensation to the communities affected by the dam.

But the villagers have to walk or ride horses around the dam to reach it, a long and meandering journey that takes about four hours.
That clinic is the nearest compared to the one in Hlotse, Leribe, where villagers can spend four hours driving on rocky road, after walking for an hour to reach where they can catch a taxi.
So it was not a surprise that the people of Ha-Sepinare shed tears of joy last Saturday when Development Planning Minister Mokoto Hloaele opened a new clinic in the village.
Dying on horseback trying to get to a clinic will be a thing of the past to the villagers.
The local councillor, Moleleki Molikoe, says he heaved a sigh of relief when he realised their people will receive medical attention right in their village.
“I know a woman who gave birth on the way to ’Mamohau Hospital,” Molikoe says.
“We used to carry sick people on horseback, including pregnant women. I am glad that this clinic is now officially opened and it is operational.”

Molikoe says many people were dying before they could reach the health facility and the villagers resolved to sacrifice their football field so that the clinic could be built.
That was the only suitable area where the clinic could be built and the people made this decision “because lives of people are more important”.
Liver City FC, the village’s football team, was unhappy when the decision to use their football field for the clinic was reached but they had to honour their elders.
Also the village primary school was using the same football field but they conceded people’s lives “were more important than their right to play football”.

The clinic, which has been operating in the last three years, will service 10 other villages including Ha-Constable, Ha-Mokhesi, Ha-Paepae, Khubetsoana, Bokong, Ha-Mallane, Ha-Mpeli, Ha-Tšepo and Ha-Semela.
A villager from Khubetsoana, ‘Makatleho Lephoi, says she is glad that this day finally came.
“Many people have died on the way going to ’Mamohau Hospital,” Lephoi says, adding that it took them a minimum of four hours to travel from her village to ’Mamohau.

“It is still a long way from Khubetsoana to Ha-Sepinare but it is much better compared to going to ’Mamohau,” she says.
Hloaele said the new clinic “shows that the government is working hard”.
“From this day people are welcome to get the services any time because the clinic will be offering services every day,” Hloaele says.

Hloaele urged people to take a good care of their clinic.
He says the government is planning further developments for the people of Ha-Sepinare when it has more funds.
He says people in Ha-Sepinare should be grateful because some places do not have even a clinic.

The Sepinare Clinic is an addition to Lesotho’s 22 hospitals and 192 clinics administered by different bodies.
Healthcare facilities are distributed throughout the country, with the government administering 12 hospitals and 79 clinics, the Christian Health Organisation of Lesotho (CHAL) eight hospitals and 75 clinics, Lesotho Red Cross Society (LRCS) four clinics and the Maseru City Council two clinics, with two hospitals and 33 clinics being privately owned.

Much of the funding for Lesotho’s health infrastructure was from the Health Sector Programme of the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA).
In 2013 the MCA funded the rehabilitation and expansion of 138 health centres countrywide and expansion of 14 hospital outpatient departments.

For many years Lesotho has been attending health needs of rural areas through the Lesotho Flying Doctors Service, which provides emergency medical services to the hard to reach mountainous regions.
The Lesotho Flying Doctors Service initiated rural health care programmes and brings in essential supplies to areas in distress.

Through this service, patients requiring specialized medical treatment not available in Lesotho are referred to hospitals in neighbouring South Africa.
Cessna 206 single engine planes, equipped with stretchers and first aid kits, are each able to accommodate six passengers and visit clinics once every three weeks.
The visiting health team includes a doctor, a dentist, a pharmacy technician and a public health nurse.

Pilots for the flying doctor service, on duty seven days a week for scheduled and emergency flights, are provided by the Mission Aviation Fellowship, which operates 130 aircraft in 30 countries.
Ireland Aid supports the flying doctor service, while an Irish doctor, employed by the Ministry of Health, makes regular flights to Lesotho to assist.

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