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Improving healthcare for factory workers

MAPUTSOE, Lesotho – For women working in garment factories in Maputsoe, about 80 kilometres from the capital city Maseru, visits to a health facility were typically rare. This was in part due to their fear of losing pay due to absences from work. But since February, this scenario has changed.

Factory worker ’Mantina Mphohle, 31, is elated that she is unlikely to lose part of her salary again due to sick leave. ’Mantina was hit by a car recently and took two days’ sick leave. She was not paid for that period. “You can imagine how disappointed I was when I realized my salary had been cut for the two days that I was away from work,” she says.

I am very happy that I will now get the services free of charge from outside my work place.
- Factory worker ’Mantina Mphohle

’Mantina Mphohle receiving sexual and reproductive health services inside the mobile clinic, near the factory where she works. © UNFPA Lesotho

Today, she can access health services outside of the factory during her lunch hour. This comes after UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund supported the Maputsoe Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) Health Facility with a mobile clinic to provide services to factory workers and those queueing for jobs at the factories.

’Mantina and her colleagues are now able to access health services at the mobile clinic, which operates in the vicinity of the factories five days a week.

“I am very happy that I will now get the services free of charge from outside my work place,” she says.

Also relieved with this development is Kholu Jonathan, 18, who has been queuing for jobs at the factories. “The mobile clinic is very helpful to us, especially since we are not employed yet,” she says.

Head of Maputsoe SDA clinic ’Makhabisi Polane recalls the time when she had to deliver a baby whose mother had never visited a health facility during pregnancy: “There was no clinic, no baby clothes, nothing. The mother said at the factory where she worked, they were not allowed time off to get to a clinic.”

The mobile clinic addresses this issue as it offers a sexual and reproductive health services package that includes family planning, ante-natal clinics, condom distribution, HIV testing as well as prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted infections.

Head of Maputsoe SDA clinic, ’Makhabisi Polane, in front of the mobile clinic.
© UNFPA Lesotho

Twenty-two factories as well as people queuing for jobs outside of them and the surrounding community are served by the clinic. It will especially benefit the factory workers, who work long hours and hardly get any time.

UNFPA Representative Therese Zeba Kobeane said Lesotho’s textile and garment industry employs a significant proportion of Lesotho’s population and about 80 per cent of this population is women.

Access to healthcare by these factory workers, especially women, is still a big challenge, she said. Their healthcare needs include antenatal care, referrals for delivery, postnatal care, management of STIs, and availability of FP services including condoms.

The mobile clinic provides workers with services on a daily basis, delivering a package of SRH and HIV services.
- UNFPA Representative Therese Zeba Kobeane

It is for this reason that UNFPA and UNAIDS, with support from the European Union and the Governments of Sweden and Norway under the Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) and HIV Linkages project, procured the mobile clinic to support Maputsoe factory workers.

“We realized that Maputsoe industrial area is highly populated with about 22 factories and there is a lack of health services provided in this area. The mobile clinic provides workers with services on a daily basis, delivering a package of SRH and HIV services,” she said.  

The mobile clinic is a client-oriented strategy that aims to take quality integrated healthcare services closer to the beneficiaries. It was developed under the Joint UNFPA/UNAIDS SRH/HIV prevention services linkages programme through the Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights and HIV Linkages project, which is funded by the European Union, the Governments of Sweden and Norway and coordinated by UNFPA. The purpose of this partnership is to respond to the needs of women working in garment factories and whose access to quality sexual, reproductive health and HIV prevention services is limited.

The mobile clinic operates around the Maputsoe factories five days a week. Hopefully, no woman shall ever again lose a day’s salary because of her need to visit a health facility.

By Violet Maraisane