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Paying it forward to Lesotho

August 24, 2021

By Janice Biehn

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Note: Since this article was first published, an additional $20,000 has been given to Partners In Health Lesotho to extend this program for a total of $40,000.

PWRDF has granted $20,000 from its Vaccine Equity Fund to Partners In Health Lesotho to support COVID-19 vaccine distribution in hard-to-reach areas of the land-locked country.

Surrounded by South Africa, Lesotho has a population of approximately 2.1 million. The vast majority of men travel to South Africa for work and provide for their families. When these migrant workers return to Lesotho to see their families, they are a significant transmission source of COVID-19. According to the most recent COVID-19 update from the World Health Organization, there have been 14,352 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Lesotho between January 3, 2020 and August 17, 2021, and 399 have died. As of August 16, 2021, 72,948 vaccine doses have been administered.

PWRDF established the Vaccine Equity Fund in April 2021 to address the extreme and urgent need for vaccines in developing countries. A COVID outbreak in a community without access to health care would be devastating, so prevention and vaccination are crucial. According to the BBC, in August 2021, 24 million people – just 1.7% of Africa’s population – have been fully vaccinated. The fund has also provided $20,000 to PIH Liberia.

The Lesotho Ministry of Health has put infection prevention and control measures in place, including social distancing guidelines, lockdowns and installed oxygen plants. However, greater and faster access to vaccines is needed. In March 2021, Lesotho received its first shipment of 36,000 Astra Zeneca vaccines. The second batch of Astra Zeneca vaccines arrived in June 2021, and a third batch of 302,400 doses of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine arrived in July 2021.

The Ministry of Health has developed a three-phased approach to the rollout of vaccinations, based on different population groups’ level of health risk: 1) frontline and healthcare workers; 2) the elderly and people with co-morbidities and 3) the general population, including textile workers, teachers and students 18 years of age and older. At present, the Government of Lesotho does not have enough vaccines nor enough resources to transport and deploy the batches of donated vaccines from the capital to remote and hard to reach districts.

Money donated to PWRDF’s Vaccine Equity Fund will cover the cost of transporting COVID-19 vaccines and health care workers to five remote and rural districts supported by PIH: Mohale’s Hoek, Qacha’s Nek, Mokhotlong, Thaba-Tseka and Butha-Buthe. These are hard to reach areas that the Ministry of Health would otherwise not be able to access with its limited resources. Due to the remote distances and difficulty in accessing health care services, these communities would be extremely vulnerable to COVID-19 if an outbreak were to occur.

Contributing to the vaccination rollout in Lesotho will ensure women and men will have the opportunity to access vaccination clinics closer to their homes and will not have to travel greater distances to be vaccinated.

You can still pay it forward

As you are able to get your first or second vaccine dose, we invite you to pay it forward with a donation to our Vaccine Equity Fund. Please click here to give today. You may also donate over the phone by calling Donor Relations Officer Mike Ziemerink at 416-822-9083, or leave a voicemail toll-free at 1-866-308-7973 and we will return your call. Or, send a cheque to PWRDF at 80 Hayden St., Toronto, Ontario, M4Y 3G2. Make sure to indicate Vaccine Equity Fund in the memo line of the cheque.

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For media requests please contact Communications Coordinator Janice Biehn at (416) 924-9199;366.

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