Lesotho: ”The journey to reach the unvaccinated was the toughest thing I have done”
Through icy river water with heavy packing, Bokang Koaatsa and his nursing colleague have struggled to reach the most inaccessible places in Lesotho. The mission: To vaccinate as many people as possible.
“My nurse colleague and I travelled to areas that are very difficult to reach, to Mpobong, Kubake and Ha Mokoara. I’ve been working for the Red Cross in Lesotho for six years, and this is the toughest thing I’ve done in all that time. We had to walk for hours and wade through rivers.
We have been tasked with vaccinating as many people as possible who want it. We were already vaccinating here in Kena, one of the Red Cross’ four centres in the country, and the one that is most difficult to reach. To get here, many patients need to travel 4-5 hours and many of them walk or ride.
Our motto is ”Re thusa sechaba”, which means ”We help the nation”. When my colleague and I thought about that motto, and really took it to heart, we decided to make an effort to reach the most inaccessible areas. We wanted to make sure that even the people who live there were able to get vaccinated. We were away for a week, and we needed to gather all our energy and work at the weekends to achieve it.
Workplace: Red Cross Health Centre in Kena, Lesotho
Qualifications: Nurse at diploma level.
It’s winter in Lesotho and the river was freezing cold. We walked barefoot to keep our shoes dry. We carried a large freezer bag with ice packs, vaccine packages and two more bags with medical equipment.
When we arrived, we moved our vaccination tent from place to place where people could get to. We also made home visits to people who were bedridden or immobile in other ways. We offered a vaccine and vaccination card to everyone we could over the age of 18.
We had enough vaccine and could keep it at the right temperature for the first three days. Then my colleague rode back to the clinic to pick up more ice packs so we could maintain the cold chain.
We didn’t vaccinate everyone, but about 400-500 people got injections. This included the elderly, who are the most badly affected by chronic diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure and cancer, and are unable to get to health care facilities.
We got to stay with others who work with health care in the villages. So at least we didn’t have to pay any rent. We’d brought our own food, enough to last us the whole week.”
Interviewer: Leni Weilenmann
corona in lesotho
Cases: 14 395
Fullt vaccinerade: 11,1 %
Source: Johns Hopkins University and Ourworldindata, 30 September 2021.