Safeguarding the health of Basotho communities

Asbestos is a hazardous material that can cause lung cancer, asbestosis and other deadly respiratory diseases. In early 2012, MCC discovered that asbestos-containing materials—very common in older buildings in Africa—were present in the majority of health facilities being renovated under the Lesotho Compact’s Health Sector Project, leading to concerns about potential exposure of both workers and surrounding community members.

Additionally, many of the health facilities under renovation have been operating for decades without a systematic nationwide approach for disposing of the medical waste being generated. This waste was deposited in open pits, burned or buried onsite. It contained syringes, medicine or biological waste. And it had accumulated without any markings to indicate where the waste was located.

When contractors began digging at the health facility sites, they often came into contact with this material. In some cases, their earth-moving activities spread the waste across the sites, creating a bigger potential for exposure and contact.

Over the past year, MCC has been working closely with MCA-Lesotho, the project’s supervisory engineer and the construction contractors to put in place procedures for ensuring that the risks associated with both asbestos-containing materials and medical waste are appropriately mitigated. During a recent trip to Lesotho, we developed this video to document the issue and describe the processes put in place to respond to the challenge.

Through the Lesotho Compact, we are not only addressing the immediate risk related to our project but also helping Lesotho to develop a sustainable process to continue addressing these issues in the future.