MSNBC.com: A Vital Link
September 14, 2010
MSNBC.com published a photo essay and article documenting the Foundation's innovative partnership with the government of the Kingdom of Lesotho to use local horseback riders to deliver HIV/AIDS prevention, care, and treatment supplies and testing materials to and from the rural communities of the mountainous country.
Potso Seoete rides by horseback through a pass in the Maluti mountains
on a journey to the Molika-liko health clinic in the Mokhotlong district of
Lesotho. Seoete is employed by a new program, called Horse-riding for
Health, that pays him to transport blood samples from the remote
mountainous region. (Photo: Jon Hrusa/EPA)
A neighbor watches as Potso Seoete prepares for his journey on Sept. 1.
Approximately 25 percent of Lesotho's adult population is living with HIV,
and the country suffers from high rates of maternal mortality, infant
mortality, and malnutrition. (Photo: Jon Hrusa/EPA)
A woman carries her newborn baby into a clinic in the Mokhotlong district
of Lesotho on Sept. 2. Health clinics in the furthest reaches of the district
are often impossible to reach by off-road vehicles or
even motorbikes. (Photo: Jon Hrusa/EPA)
Village children skip rope in the Mokhotlong district. At an altitude of nearly
10,000 feet, the district is blanketed with snow four to six months out of
the year; its steep dirt roads impassable during heavy rains in the summer.
It is also is one of the most remote regions in Southern Africa, located in
a mountainous area some 185 miles east of Maseru.
(Photo: Jon Hrusa/EPA)
Jonathan Woods says: On a recent trip to a remote mountainous region in Lesotho, European Pressphoto Agency Photographer John Hrusa documented a man named Potso Seoete, who provides a vital courier service for his community.
His job: Transport blood samples by horseback and motorbike to be tested for HIV.
Three to four times a week, weather permitting, Seoete gets on a horse at 7 a.m. and rides for a half-hour to a staging area where he meets a motorbike driver, who gives him an insulated bag of samples to take to the clinic. It's a journey that takes three to four hours, depending on conditions, and it can't take much longer because if the blood samples he's transporting aren't kept at a constant temperature they will break down. During bad weather, the road to the clinic is impassable for everything except horses.
His job is funded by a new initiative called Horse-riding for Health. It was started by the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation and the Lesotho Ministry of Health. The program contracts people like Seoete to provide this vital link from remote communities to clinics.
After dropping off the samples, he will often be sent back with medications for the people he serves. His payment is 300 Loti, or the equivalent of $42 USD, which is enough to provide his wife, two children and mother with food.
Describing the service Seoete provides as essential, Photographer John Hrusa said, "Without these horses, the program would fall flat on its face."