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An automated handwasher

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ROMA – WHEN Covid-19 hit, National University of Lesotho (NUL) lecturers, Seforo Mohlalisi and Thabo Koetje, had an idea.

The NUL Innovation Hub researchers created a tiny washing unit that would sense your hands and throw water towards them to wash without touching the tap.

It was not a new idea but it was needed with urgency.

The bigger version of the idea is now installed in nine Lesotho institutions.

Covid-19 was creating chaos and the two had to join worldwide armies of scientists to keep it in check.

That meant tripling prevention methods such as proper hand washing.

The story of a small washing station they created was covered on this page back then.

It went viral as it came during the worst days of Covid-19 in Lesotho.

This is how it sounded: “This brilliant Corona Hygiene Bucket uses technology to ensure that you don’t touch anything — while washing your hands — to reduce chances of catching coronavirus.

The bucket has no tap — a potential virus surface. It automatically senses your hands and showers them with water.

Its development has just been completed by Seforo Mohlalisi and Thabo Koetje, two National University of Lesotho (NUL) Innovation Hub Electronic Engineers, together with their students, Stephen Monyamane and Zandile Mkuzo.”

A video accompanying the bucket was released.

Someone was watching.

“We received a call from the Ministry of Health,” Koetje said.

It came from Tebello Kolobe and Pheello Phera, hygiene specialists in the Ministry.

The Ministry wanted the lecturers’ help and a meeting was quickly arranged.

Present in the meeting were representatives from the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), which was willing to fund proper hand washing initiatives.

The Ministry of Health unit called WASH and HYGIENE was already installing manual hand washing stations in schools.

The manual stations were pushed with feet to release water stored in buckets for washing.

The idea behind these stations was so you don’t touch any surface after washing your hands because viruses and bacteria gather there and might make the just-completed hand washing less useful.

But the hastily assembled manual stations were either wearing off or jamming too quickly.

The fact that they were being used by “playful” children didn’t help.

Later, the NUL lecturers, along with other interested teams, were invited to submit better solutions to UNICEF.

They did and they received financing.

“We got M500, 000 in funding and we were ready to assist,” Mohlalisi said.

“Our challenge was to erect stations that had several parts working together.”

Whenever possible, a number of components were made from scratch.

Their solution came in three packages with the help of overall designs by Thapelo Moeti.

The first was a large station.

This is how it works.

Children approach the hand washing station that may have four to five taps.

Only one of the taps has a sensor.

As soon as one of the children puts her hands under the first tap with a sensor, water rushes out.

But it doesn’t only come out through the tap that has a sensor.

Rather it comes out through the other four taps with no sensors.

Thus multiple hand washing processes happen at the same time.

If there are few children, there is no need to open the other four taps to save water.

The water used for washing is stored in a big elevated tank.

It is then piped from the tank and warmed using a solar geyser.

It is said that the warmer the water, the more effective it is in clearing off germs.

Once the water is heated, it is then pumped into the taps.

However, remember it comes to the taps only if the sensor at the tap detects a hand.

The sensing and pumping systems need power.

The idea is to use as much of the sun’s energy as possible.

So solar panels are used to power the systems.

However, the station is also connected to electricity.

Part of the interesting work was to ensure that the station could switch easily between solar and electricity.

If there is no electricity, the solar takes over, automatically.

If there is no solar, electricity takes over, depending on which one is given a priority by the design.

The whole thing involved a lot of skills including electronics, plumbing and machining.

The second version is called the medium station.

It works much like the large station but without a solar geyser.

The third station is a small station.

The station is connected directly to municipal flowing water.

It is run on normal electricity or batteries.

It can even be used in homes.

Here are the lucky institutions that benefit from the stations: (1) Lesia Primary and High Schools, (2) Mazenod High School (3) Ha Raboletse Secondary School (they had neither running water nor electricity (4) National University of Lesotho International School (NULIS), (5) Senkatana Clinic, (6) Khubetsoana Clinic, (7) St Joseph’s Clinic, Ha Abia, (Maseru Central Charge Office and (9) God’s Love Centre, a Centre for vulnerable children.

Covid-19 may or may never go but the stations will remain.

“We need them way beyond Covid-19,” the NUL lecturers said.

That is because, they said, good hygiene is always a great idea, Covid or no Covid.

Own Correspondent

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[BREAKING NEWS] Lebona sets curfew

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MASERU– In an effort to curb the rampant increase of homicides in Lesotho, the Minister of Police Lebona Lephema has announced a 10:00pm-4:00am curfew, effective Tuesday May 16, 2023. Failure to comply with the curfew attracts a 2 years imprisonment or a fine.

Staff Reporter

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Two nurses deleted for misconduct

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MASERU – A Kolonyama midwife, ’Mamalibeng Ralenkoane, who allegedly neglected a woman during labour has been deleted from the nurses’ register for the next six months.

The woman went on to deliver her baby by herself without professional assistance.

In another case the secretary-general of the Lesotho Nursing Council (LNC), ’Mamonica Makhoswonke Mokhesi, has also been deleted for violating a patient’s privacy.

The LNC’s disciplinary chairman, Advocate Rapapa Sepiriti, said Ralenkoane had committed an act of serious misconduct and deserved severe punishment.

Advocate Sepiriti ruled that Ralenkoane “should not be seen anywhere attending (to) patients”.

Ralenkoane was working as a midwife at the Little Flower Health Centre in Kolonyama, Leribe, when ’Mateboho Letlala was admitted there for labour in August 2020.

Letlala told the panel that Ralenkoane took her to the examination room and later left her despite that there were signs that she could give birth anytime.

“At 19:00 pm Ralenkoane examined the patient but left her unattended and the patient had to deliver on her own,” Advocate Sepiriti said in his verdict.

“Clearly the blame has to be put at the door of Ralenkoane,” he said.

Adv. Sepiriti ruled that she should be deleted with immediate effect for 12 months, half of which was suspended.

“During these six months period, Ralenkoane is prohibited in any way from attending patients and this judgment should be delivered at her place of work,” he said.

Letlala in her testimony said by the time Ralenkoane arrived, she was already having severe labour pains and was told to go to the labour ward for assessment.

She said when she stepped down the labour bed Ralenkoane said to her: “Ua seke ua tatela ho hema empa molomo oa popelo o buleile ka 3cm’ (meaning she seemed to be in a hurry yet the cervix had opened by 3cm only).

“I was so surprised because I could feel I was very close to delivering because this was my second child and I could say I have experience,” she said.

She said she told the nurse that she needed to use the toilet but was instructed to use a pan instead.

“As she left me on the bed pan I could not stand from the pan as the pains were severe. I called for help but to no avail,” she said.

She said the moment she got energy to stand from the bed pan she saw blood, she called her but there was no response.

“Ralenkoane promised to come after two hours but there were no instructions on what to do in case I needed help prior to two hours,” she said.

“I wheeled myself to the bed and sat on it, still calling to no avail.”

She said while still alone, her membranes raptured and the time of birth came and the baby was delivered.

“The child did not fall as I was able to hold him,” she said.

She phoned her aunt who told her to find s scissor to cut the umbilical cord.

She said she bled a lot and ran out of energy, then Ralenkoane arrived at around midnight.

“When she came in she asked where the baby was and I pointed to where I had put him where he clamped the cord,” she said.

She said it was then that she got assistance.

The investigator for Professional Conduct Committee (PCC), one Nteso, told Advocate Sepiriti that his findings were that “the mother’s life was in danger as she was found having bled heavily and tired and the baby’s life was also in danger from prolonged exposure which could lead to hypothermia and brain damage”.

“Ralenkoane was not there for the mother until she delivered in the absence of the midwife, this is a case of negligence,” he said.

However, in mitigation Ralenkoane said this was her first time to appear before the panel and has been a nurse for more than nine years.

She said she has two children to support and she has already been punished by the clinic as she was dismissed and that she has policies and loans.

She pleaded with the panel to have mercy on her.

In another case Mokhesi who was the Secretary General of LNC was also deleted from the register for two years after she was found guilty of sharing a patient’s picture on social media without their consent.

She was accused of defamation of character and violating the patient’s privacy by posting pictures of the injuries he had incurred.

’Malimpho Majoro

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Nurses back at work

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MASERU -NURSES who have been on strike since Monday are set to resume work this morning after the government started paying their salaries.

The nurses went on a go-slow last week but escalated to a full-fledged strike on Monday after the government delayed their salaries. Some nurses claimed they had not been paid since March.

Morephe Santi, the secretary general of the Lesotho Nurses’ Association (LNA), said they have started telling members to go back to work after the government said the salaries will start reflecting in their accounts last night.

The strike has inflicted huge reputational damage on Prime Minister Sam Matekane’s government which came to power on promises of efficiency.

Minister of Public Service Richard Ramoeletsi blamed the Integrated Financial Management Information System (IFMIS) and the Human Resource Management System (HRMS) for the delay in April salaries.

Ramoeletsi told parliament last week that the two financial management systems were unable to reconcile, leading to delays in salaries.

But that explanation was little consolation for patients who bore the brunt of the strike.

At least 20 expectant mothers at Machabeng Hospital in Qacha’s Nek were told to go home because nurses could not help them.

Some of the women were later admitted at Tebellong Hospital, a facility under the Christian Health Association of Lesotho (CHAL).

“We were staying at the hospital’s roundavel awaiting our time to go to labour but on Thursday afternoon (last week we were called by the nurses and they told us to go to other hospitals or go back home,” said Maretlotliloe Mpeli, who is heavily pregnant.

She said the nurses told them that they could not work on empty stomachs.

’Matlotla Poling, 19, from Ha-Rankakala said she had to call her parents because she did not have any money to either go back home or to Tebellong Hospital.

The Machabeng Hospital management declined to comment, referring thepost to the ministry’s headquarters in Maseru.

Ministry of Health spokesperson, ’Mateboho Mosebekoa, said Machabeng Hospital “did not expel the expecting mothers but merely sent them back home”.

“Due to the ongoing strike by doctors countrywide …they decided to take those women to the places where they would get help,” Mosebekoa said.

There was similar anguish at Queen ’Mamohato Memorial Hospital.

“The strike has affected all the departments including the kitchen, maternity, and emergencies, but the managers are on duty,” said ’Makananelo Sepipi, the hospital’s spokesperson.

Sepipi said managers were forced to hold the forte “because some sections cannot be left unattended utterly due to their importance”.

“The operations are happening in the emergency section, even though they do not operate in a normal way.”

She said patients whose operations were scheduled for this week were sent back home.

Santi, the LNA’s secretary general, blamed the government for the chaos caused by the strike.

Santi said as much as the government likes to call them an essential service they do not prioritise their ministry.

“They do not appreciate us, it is like they do not see the importance of our job,” Santi said.

“The government turns a blind eye to the fact that our working environment alone can put us at risk of contracting diseases.”

“Now we are not able to buy food and other necessities.”

Nkheli Liphoto & Thooe Ramolibeli

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