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Malnutrition grips Qacha’s Nek

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QACHA’S NEK– WHEN ’Matšepo* went to South Africa to check on her nephews, a local hospital was one her first stop.
Her nephews, 19-months-old and seven-years-old, were swollen from malnourishment that she immediately took them to a nearby clinic. They were referred to Machabeng Hospital “because their situation was critical,” said ’Matšepo.

The boys’ mother allegedly abandoned them when she fell-out with her husband where they were staying in South Africa.
’Matšepo said the boys were diagnosed with malnutrition, a condition common among vulnerable toddlers.

Children aged between seven and 18-months-old are said to be most susceptible to acute malnutrition and waterborne illnesses, which makes them most vulnerable to rapid dehydration, infections and death.
“The second-born’s condition only got worse. His belly made some sounds and it swelled. When he was hungry, there was no way to stop him while crying. We did not know why he would cry and we did not know it was an illness until it was spotted and diagnosed. The second day at the hospital, the youngest succumbed to malnutrition,” ’Matšepo said.
The two boys stayed with their parents in South Africa before the fallout earlier last month.

“Just after their fallout, my sister-in-law brought them (already sick) to stay with my parents together with their 13 and seven-years-old cousins,” she said, adding that the seven-months-old who later died was still breastfeeding when his mother abandoned them.

“There was no milk to feed him,” she said.
“My parents already struggled to make ends meet as my mother sometimes brews fermented beer to put food on the table,” ’Matšepo said, adding that it was their ninth day at the hospital and “my (remaining) nephew is recovering well”.

“He is better than how he was when I first brought him here as the swelling is slowing down. I am happy I went to see them as soon as my mother told me about their state.”
The Machabeng Hospital nutritionist, ’Mapoulo ’Moso, expressed worry about the escalating cases of malnutrition in the district that are making stunting the dominant symptom.
She said malnutrition is caused by inadequate food intake, poor quality of diet and when the body is not able to use the consumed food.

She said people vulnerable to malnutrition are people living with HIV/TB, people who diet the wrong way and children under two years old because in the first six months they are expected to be breast-fed.
“Often that is the challenge and at that age, children are already being given a variety of food not just breast milk and they end up malnourished,” ’Moso said.
“Even when they are supposed to eat after six months, their diet is poor leading to malnutrition due to lack of nutrients they need to grow,” she said.

She said symptoms of malnutrition include short stature (stunting), getting ill often and taking a long time to recover and poor concentration in class among others.
She said as nutritionists, they give children under two years supplementary food to curb malnutrition.

Also, when a child is diagnosed with malnutrition, she said they are given a ready-to-use therapeutic food specifically formulated for the nutritional rehabilitation of children “although we currently do not have such commodities”.

She said on a monthly basis, children are weighed by Village Health Workers (VHW) to monitor their growth and once they are seen to be malnourished, they are referred to the nearest health centre.
The Qacha’s Nek District Medical Officer, Dr Thapelo Ramatseka, said malnutrition is proving to be a daunting challenge in the district and at times the children’s ward gets full with such patients.
“It is saddening because the said food is only provided at the hospital until one is released,” Dr Ramatseka said, adding: “It is a temporary solution because permanent treatment is found at home where the challenge is lack of food.”

He said stunting can be prevented in the first 1,000 days of a child’s life.
“It is our responsibility to solve that,” he said.

Dr Ramatseka said Qacha’s Nek, Mokhotlong, Mohale’s Hoek and Thaba-Tseka are the most affected districts.
Reports show that two in every five children under five-years-old are malnourished in Lesotho. Meanwhile, King Letsie III who is the African Union Nutrition Champion and also serves as the African Leader for Nutrition (ALN) Champion, said Lesotho takes seriously its goal of ending malnutrition.

He was speaking at a High-Level Forum on Nutrition Financing event held in Maseru in late March where he hosted leaders from across the continent
“Lesotho takes seriously the continental decisions to prioritise nutrition in their economic and social development programmes. She will ensure that nutrition programmes and activities get sufficient attention in the planning and budgeting processes of the ministry,” the King said.

He said Lesotho is embarking on the establishment and revival of nutrition plans at the community level.

“Extension workers conduct training for nutrition clubs through nutrition, education and demonstrations on production, storage, processing and preparation of food,” he said.
Speaking at the same event, Prime Minister Sam Matekane said nutrition is core to health, well-being and economic development of this continent.

“We can all agree that we can no longer look at nutrition as an issue of food production, yet it involves every sector within the cycle of food systems, that is, from farm to fork,” Matekane said.
Matekane said in an effort to contribute to the continental efforts, Lesotho decided to keep the nutrition coordinating body, the Food and Nutrition Coordination Office in the Office of the Prime Minister to track food and nutrition programmes carried out by implementing agencies.

He said the Senate took a decisive step to form a Health and Nutrition Portfolio Committee, while in the Lower House all portfolio committees are dedicated to supporting food and nutrition initiatives.
“The government is engaged in various food and nutrition initiatives that are meant to address malnutrition at grassroots level,” he said.

“Most food and nutrition initiatives in this country are undertaken with the support of development partners, donors and civil society organisations.”
He said he will ensure that the private sector takes its rightful spot in the fight against malnutrition.

“Let us join hands as governments, legislature and the private sector in combating the effects of malnutrition across the African continent,” Matekane said.
“Let us also remember that coordination, collaboration and multi-sectoral approach are key in achieving better results for all Africans.”

The United Nations Resident Coordinator, Amanda Khozi Mukwashi, said the Covid-19 pandemic has reminded them that without health, there is no future and no life.
“The consequences of the frequency and intensity of shocks caused by climate change are being experienced in our lifetime, leading to loss of life, displacements, damage to crops and livestock and causing food insecurity for those already vulnerable and marginalised,” she said.

She said current estimates indicate that most countries will not achieve internationally agreed nutrition targets by 2025 either.
“These challenges are plenty and find Africa in an already weakened state of development.”

Following the endorsement of the Abidjan Declaration to “Accelerate investment, implementation and coordination to improve nutrition and food security in Africa”, she said the gathering “is crucial to capitalize on the growing political momentum on nutrition and to develop evidence-based policies and supportive financial instruments that provide impetus for more sustainable food systems (nutrition included) and healthier diets.”

Achieving and sustaining nutrition progress in the continent requires investments, policy coherence and coordinated action among multiple stakeholders (including leveraging our communities, knowledge and traditions of healthy food practices) and across multiple sectors, including health, agriculture, social protection, education, and WASH to mention but a few.”

She added: “Not tackling the issue of nutrition and food systems will impact on productivity, delay economic growth, increase financial burden on the health systems and impede education for many children. Whatever the decision/choice, let us be clear that there will be a cost.”

’Mapule Motsopa

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Doctor tampers with corpse

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THE Mokhotlong Government Hospital has agreed to pay M200 000 as compensation to the husband of a deceased patient after a doctor unlawfully tampered with the corpse.

There is a deed of settlement between the hospital and Jacob Palime, the deceased woman’s husband.

Jacob Palime rushed to the High Court in Tšifa-li-Mali last year after the hospital failed to explain why the doctor had tampered with his wife’s corpse at a private mortuary behind his back.

His wife’s body had been taken to the Lesotho Funeral Services.
Palime lives in Phahameng in Mokhotlong.

In his court papers, Palime was demanding M500 000 in compensation from the hospital “for unlawful invasion, intrusion and interference with” his rituals and rights over his dead wife.

He informed the court that his wife died in September 2020 at Mokhotlong Hospital.

“All requisite documentation pertaining to her release to Lesotho Funeral Services were effected and ultimately the deceased was accordingly transferred to the mortuary,” Palime said.

The court heard that Palime’s family was subsequently informed about the wife’s death.

The family however learnt that one doctor, acting in his professional capacity, went to the mortuary the next day and tampered with the corpse.

The doctor subsequently conducted certain tests on the corpse without the knowledge of family members.

Palime said their attempts to get an explanation from the hospital as to the purpose of the tests and the name of the doctor had failed to yield results.

“It remained questionable and therefore incomprehensible as to what actually was the purpose or rationale behind conducting such anonymous and secret tests,” he said.

Palime told the court that the whole thing left him “in an unsettled state of mind for a long time”.

He said his family, which has its traditions and culture rooted in the respect for their departed loved ones, regards and considers Mokhotlong Hospital’s conduct as an unlawful invasion, intrusion and interference with his rituals and rights over his deceased spouse.

“This is more-so because the hospital had all the opportunity to have conducted any or such alleged tests immediately upon demise of the deceased while still within its area of jurisdiction and not after her release to the mortuary,” he said.

Palime said despite incessant demands, the hospital has failed, refused, ignored and neglected to cooperate with him “to amicably solve this unwarranted state of affairs”.

Palime told the court that there were no claims against the Lesotho Funeral Service as they had cooperated and compensated him for wrongly allowing the doctor to perform tests on the corpse without knowledge or presence of one of the family members.

’Malimpho Majoro

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Villagers whipped as police seize guns

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Dozens of villagers in Ha-Rammeleke in Khubelu, Mokhotlong, were on Monday night rounded up and beaten with sticks and whips by the police during an operation to seize illegal guns.

The villagers told thepost that they heard one man crying out for help saying his wife was sick. And when they rushed to his house, they found the police waiting for them.

The police had stormed the man’s house and ordered him to “cry for help” to lure men from the village.

The men and women were then frog-marched outside the village where the police assaulted the men with sticks, whips, and kicked them.

One man said when he arrived at the house, he found other villagers who were now surrounded by armed police.

“At first I thought they were soldiers but later picked up that they were SOU (Special Operations Unit) members,” he said.

He said they were subjected to severe torture.

“They beat us with sticks at the same time demanding guns from us,” he said.

The police and soldiers also raided other nearby villages in Khubelu area but in Ha-Rammeleke villagers say they identified only police from the Special Operations Unit (SOU).

Several villagers who spoke to thepost asked for anonymity for fear of retribution.

This was the second time within a month that the security forces have raided the villages in search of illegal guns after a spate of gory murders in the areas.

The murders are perpetrated by famo music gangs who are fighting over illegal gold mining in South Africa.

The first raid was on Wednesday preceding Good Friday.

Villagers say a group of armed soldiers stormed the place in the wee hours collecting almost every one to the chief’s place.

“We were woken-up by young soldiers who drove us to the chief’s place,” one resident of Ha-Rammeleke said.

When they arrived at the chief’s home all hell broke loose.

A woman told thepost that they were split into two groups of women and men.

Later, women were further split into two groups of the elderly and younger ones.

She said the security officers assaulted the men while ordering the elderly women to ululate.

Young women were ordered to run around the place like they were exercising.

She said the men were pushed into a small hut where they were subjected to further torture.

A man who was among the victims said the army said they should produce the guns and help them identify the illegal miners.

He said this happened after one man in their village was fatally shot by five unknown men in broad daylight.

He said the men who killed the fellow villager had their faces covered with balaclavas and they could not see who they were.

 

The villagers chased them but they could not get close to them because they were armed with guns.

“We were armed with stones while those men were armed with guns,” he said.

“They fired a volley of bullets at us and we retreated,” he said.

The murdered man was later collected by the police.

The army spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Sakeng Lekola, confirmed that soldiers stormed Khubelu area in response to the rampant lawlessness of unlicensed guns.

Lt Col Lekola said their presence in the area followed two incidents of shootings where one man was fatally shot and a child sustained serious gunshot wounds.

“There were reports everywhere, even on the radios, that things were out of hand in Khubelu,” he said.

He said in just a day they managed to collect six guns that were in wrong hands together with more than 100 rounds (bullets) in an operation dubbed Deuteronomy 17.

These bullets included 23 rounds of Galil rifle.

Lt Col Lekola maintained that their operation was successful because they managed to collect guns from wrong hands.

He said they are doing this in line with the African Union principle of ‘silencing the guns’.

He said it is an undeniable fact that statistics of people killed with guns is disturbing.

“We appeal to these people to produce these unlicensed guns,” Lt Col Lekola said.

Lt Col Lekola said they could not just watch Basotho helplessly as they suffered.

He said some people are seen just flaunting their guns.

“They fear no one,” he said.

Police spokesman, Senior Superintendent Kabelo Halahala, said he was aware of the operation in Mokhotlong but did not have further details.

Majara Molupe

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Magistrate saves WILSA boss

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A Maseru magistrate, Nthabiseng Moopisa, this week stayed the criminal prosecution of Advocate ’Mamosa Mohlabula who is accused of tax evasion, money laundering and corruption.

In her application Advocate Mohlabula, who is the director of Women and Law in Southern Africa (WILSA), said the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) should not charge her pending finalisation of her tax evasion case.

Advocate Mohlabula is out on bail after she was formally charged with tax evasion in July last year.

She told Magistrate Moopisa that the DPP, Advocate Hlalefang Motinyane, was wrong to have agreed with the Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) to bring charges against her.

“In my viewpoint, the DCEO cannot be heard to charge me in relation to matters already seized with this Honourable Court,” she said in an affidavit.

She also said there is a pending civil case in the High Court in which the DCEO’s abuse of power is referenced, saying the precise way the case is handled will depend “on the way an alleged offence comes to the light”.

“Before that pending case is finalised, DCEO has no jurisdiction to detail me to court over isolated phenomenon of tax evasion and or over grievances of former employees of WILSA,” she said.

Advocate Mohlabula was charged together with the WILSA’s chief accounting officer.

She argued that it was WILSA that was being investigated, not individuals, further saying that was “a significant safeguard that the DCEO was impartial from an objective viewpoint”.

“To exclude any legitimate doubt in this respect the DCEO returned the items it seized from WILSA,” she said.

“This was a realistic and practical step towards administering justice and to avoid premature embarrassment to the management of WILSA.”

She said the Board of Trustees of WILSA were sent briefing notes which in certain respects reflected that the DCEO returned the properties of WILSA without warning them that they were suspects.

“In any event, we proceeded to fashion our arguments before the High Court. There was, and could be, no evidence to back up the decision of the DCEO to apply for the search warrant,” she said.

Advocate Mohlabula said before they took the matter to the High Court, she cooperated with the DCEO and it conducted an inquiry into the alleged crimes.

“Now that the matter is pending before the High Court, there is no more reason for the DCEO to remand me before the pending cases are finalised,” she said.

Staff Reporter

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