Ambassador Eric Goosby, the US Global AIDS Coordinator, visited ICAP-supported sites in Lesotho during the first week of August to participate in the launch of the Nursing Education Partnership Initiative (NEPI) Clinical Skills Laboratories. He spoke at the launch, acknowledging the efforts of ICAP and other PEPFAR partners in their work to enhance the quality and quantity of health care workers in the country. The Ambassador also used the opportunity to visit an ICAP-supported TB/HIV service integration program at Mafeteng Hospital in Lesotho.

Facing a severe shortage of health care workers, and especially nurses and midwives, the Lesotho Ministry of Health has worked since 2009 to improve nursing and midwifery education in the country with the goal of increasing the number of qualified professionals across Lesotho. As a member of the Nursing Education Partnership Initiative funded by the US President’s Plan for Emergency AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), Lesotho’s Ministry of Health, in partnership with ICAP and other PEPFAR partners, has focused on implementing new and transformative teaching and learning approaches in pre-service nursing education, as well as on increasing student enrollment.

ICAP at Columbia University, the coordinating center of NEPI, has partnered with the Lesotho Ministry of Health to plan and implement pre-service education initiatives, including clinical skills laboratories at six nursing schools in Lesotho. These laboratories provide practice-based, student-centered curricula that combine multiple learning strategies to bridge the gap between the classroom and real-life clinical practice. The labs also enable students to learn core skills in a safe and supportive environment where observation and feedback are inherent in the educational strategy.

Under the leadership of M’e’e Blanche Pitt, country director of ICAP in Lesotho, a host of distinguished colleagues, including Ambassador Goosby and Ms. Deborah von Zinkernagel of PEPFAR, Madam Ambassador Michelle Bond, US Ambassador to Lesotho, and Hon. Dr. Pinkie Rosemary Manamolela, Lesotho Minister of Health, attended the official launch of the NEPI Clinical Skills Laboratories at the National Health Training College in Maseru. At the launch, Dr. Jessica Justman, senior technical director of ICAP, presented on NEPI’s progress in promoting sustainable, high quality nursing education in Lesotho and announced ICAP’s sponsorship of a nurse and midwifery training program to be held at Scots Hospital in Lesotho. A nursing student from the National Health Training College also demonstrated routine care on a simulated patient—lifelike mannequins used in the NEPI skills laboratories that simulate symptoms and health conditions of actual patients.

A second critical health topic—prevention, care, and treatment of TB/HIV infections—was also addressed during the visit. TB and HIV pose a serious problem in Lesotho where close to 65% of deaths are caused by the combination of the diseases. ICAP has worked in all 10 districts of the country for the past four years to support the Lesotho Ministry of Health and Social Welfare in achieving its goal of countrywide coverage of TB/HIV integrated care for all co-infected patients. During Ambassador Goosby’s visit to Mafeteng Hospital, ICAP presented the work it has accomplished in partnership with the Ministry to improve data monitoring and tracking of new TB cases, which has led to more accurate estimates of the number of individuals with both TB and HIV and deaths from TB/HIV.

“This meeting was an important opportunity to discuss the most critical health threats in Lesotho and to highlight notable achievements thus far. We were also able to collaboratively discuss the needs of the country moving forward and the work that lies ahead for Lesotho and its partners,” said Blanche Pitt.

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