Lesotho Health Communication Environment

  • Population:
  • Population living below the poverty line:
    49% (1999)
  • Age structure:
    0-14 years: 36.8% (male 374,102/female 369,527)
    15-64 years: 58.3% (male 572,957/female 606,846)
    65 years and over: 4.9% (male 39,461/female 59,438) (2006 est.)
  • Infant mortality rate:
    total: 87.24 deaths/1,000 live births
    male: 92.04 deaths/1,000 live births
    female: 82.28 deaths/1,000 live births (2006 est.)
  • Life expectancy rate:
    total population: 34.4 years
    male: 35.55 years
    female: 33.21 years (2006 est.)
  • HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:   
    28.9% (2003 est.)
  • HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:   
    320,000 (2003 est.)
  • HIV/AIDS - deaths:   
    29,000 (2003 est.)
  • Literacy rate:
    definition: age 15 and over can read and write
    total population: 84.8%
    male: 74.5%
    female: 94.5% (2003 est.)
  • Languages:  
    Sesotho (southern Sotho), English (official), Zulu, Xhosa

Our History

The foundation of Phela was laid in 1998 when DFID requested Soul City to adapt a youth publication called Choose Life in 4 Southern African countries of which Lesotho was one. After an extensive consultation process with government and key stakeholders in the health and NGO sector, Soul City began to work with the Catholic Council of Lesotho with the formal endorsement of the Lesotho Network for AIDS Service Organizations (Lenaso).

Between 1999 – 2001 the Choose Life youth publication was tested and adopted in Lesotho. 435 000 copies of this booklet were distributed to youth in and out of schools in both English and Sesotho. Innovative ways of distributing the booklet were pioneered through, for example, a partnership with Maseru Roller Mills, who distributed the booklet inside large maize bags.

The process of developing Choose Life also highlighted a further need in Lesotho, and that was the need to build local capacity to do effective health communication in order to strengthen the country’s fight against HIV/AIDS.

Following the success of Choose Life, a request was made by Lenaso for Soul City to support setting up an independent health communication project in Lesotho. Phela Health and Development Communications, a local NGO was set up under the directorship of Hope Dolo who had managed the adaptation of the Choose Life booklet. Soul City and Phela entered into a further 5 year partnership (2001 – 2006).

Our Mission and objectives

The aim of Phela is to impact on priority health and development issues in particular HIV/AIDS by:

  • building local capacity in Lesotho for effective health communication
  • Adapting existing South African Soul City media for local use (print, radio, TV)
  • Creating a regional Southern African network to share best practice.


Our philosophy

Phela’s edutainment philosophy and methodology is research- based and involves an extensive formative research process which includes broad stakeholder consultation, literature research and empirical audience research. All materials produced are pre-tested with the target audience to ensure resonance, clarity and effectiveness

What we’ve done

Phela has developed the following edutainment materials to date:

  • 890 000 booklets on HIV/AIDS called Action Now were distributed in English and Sesotho across the country.
  • 670 000 copies of a booklet on Maternal and Child Health.
  • 850 000 copies of Phela’s third booklet, Violence Against Women, in English and Sesotho and 850 000 copies are for distribution by the end of 2006.
  • The national broadcaster broadcast a 60-episode radio series in Sesotho. The 15 minute episodes ran daily for 4 months and reached all corners of the country. The second series, also in Sesotho, is for airing by the end of 2006.
  • Two 13-part TV magazine/ documentary series were aired on National television in 2004 and 2005. The series focused on key health issues in Lesotho featuring stories of the lives of Basotho people across the country.


Evaluating our results

The baseline survey of the evaluation of the Soul City Regional Programme indicates that even before the implementation of the Regional Programme, Soul City had considerable reach in Lesotho. Some 4.3 % of people in Lesotho spontaneously mentioned that they had learned about HIV/AIDS from Soul City. In Lesotho approximately 1 in 3 adults had heard of Soul City prior to the start of the Regional Programme and approximately half of those had watched or listened to Soul City “often” or “always” while it was on air. Preliminary indications of reach of PHELA productions are very positive. Quantitative measures of Phela’s reach will be available towards the end of 2007.

Extensive qualitative formative audience research of Phela material has been done through the course of the materials development process in Lesotho. The Phela productions have been received very well by local audiences, and various spontaneous accounts of self-reported impact have been documented:

“This booklet has taught me a lot of things which I was not aware of. But after reading this Phela booklet, you find that it is educative from the first page to the last page. Everything in this booklet is very important. I have liked all the issues in here.” (Phela Mother and Child Health Booklet, Urban female, Lesotho)

“Looking at the kind of life we live today and how we do things, Phela is the name that urges one to live and make good choices in life.” (Female, 16-25: in response to watching PHELA on television)

“This drama ‘Musa Pelo’ is the best and interesting. It’s not like our local drama; it is truly the best compared to other radio dramas that have been played in our local radio stations for years.” (Urban Female, 15-49)

Independently contracted Qualitative Evaluation recently completed in Lesotho confirms the positive audience reception and self-reported impact observed in the in-house research:

“Both the television series and booklet were commended for their educative, awareness creation, advisory and cautionary values. Television was praised for educating on general matters of health; awareness creation as regarded things that were happening in communities, such as fathers raping their own children, and legal and social recourse available to abuse victims. The next popular vote went to the series for being advisory with regard to how to eat to maintain good health and for cautioning against potential dangers of alcohol, and for its ability to prompt communication in the family and between individuals. The Phela 1 drama was also lauded for being realistic, by showing real-life experiences of Basotho and for being interactive, where it sought ordinary people’s views in respect of the themes discussed…Phela is undoubtedly recognised by the audiences polled in this study, as making an invaluable contribution in areas of national communication that matter the most. It should not surprise anyone, therefore, that they wish for Phela to continue and persevere with their much valued work in Lesotho”
(Independent Evaluator, Lesotho)

Contact us

Phela – Health & Development Communications

Director: Hope Dolo

+266 22 327 502 Tel
+266 22 327 503 Fax

Lesotho Save the Children Fund Building
Behind Browns Cash and Carry
Off Industrial Road, Industrial Area, Maseru

Private Bag A194.

Programme Officer: Limpho Mockechane

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