“We lost too many warriors in this battle”: Catholic Nun in Lesotho on COVID-19 Effects

Lesotho-based Sr. Juliet Lithemba of the Sisters of Charity of Ottawa who has recovered from COVID-19. Credit: World Health Organization (WHO) Lesotho

A Catholic Nun ministering in Lesotho has, in a report, recounted the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the people of God in the Southern African kingdom noting that her community “lost too many warriors in this battle.”

In the Saturday, April 17 report obtained by ACI Africa, Sr. Juliet Lithemba of the Sisters of Charity of Ottawa says, “We lost too many warriors in this battle, and life will never be the same.”

Sr. Lithemba was among the first Nun among members of her Religious community residing at Mt Royal Convent in Lesotho’s Catholic Diocese of Leribe to be test positive for COVID-19 in May 2020.

In the report by UN News, the information service of the United Nations, the 77-year-old Nun says she did not know much about the pandemic and when she developed the first symptoms, she assumed it was a cold.

“It didn’t come as a surprise to me that I had flu-like symptoms because all my life, I have been troubled by the common cold,” Sr. Lithemba has been quoted as saying in the report titled, “Surviving a deadly outbreak of COVID-19 in a Lesotho Convent.”


The Nun who has dedicated her life to religious service sought treatment at the nearby Motebang Hospital after the flu-like symptoms worsened. She was later transferred to Berea Hospital after testing positive for COVID-19.

“I was even taught how to operate the oxygen machine. It sure was going to be a long hospital stay. This, I learned as days passed by,” she recalls her experience at the hospital where she was on oxygen for 18 days.

At the COVID-19 ward, the next bed to hers was occupied by a fellow Nun from her Convent “who was having a hard time breathing, eating or even drinking water.”

“She could not swallow or keep anything down,” Sr. Lithemba says referencing her hospital neighbor who later succumbed to COVID-19 complications.

According to the report, “The virus had spread so widely that every other day a Nun would be taken to the closest private clinic, to be given oxygen. The oldest among the sisters, was 96.”

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“These were trying times for us,” Sr. Lithemba recalls, making reference to her community members who have succumbed to the coronavirus.

The Convent has registered at least 17 COVID-19 cases and seven related deaths. These are among the 10,709 COVID-19 cases, 5,028 recoveries, and 315 deaths reported in the landlocked kingdom encircled by South Africa.

In the report, the Nun who has been a member of the Sisters of Charity of Ottawa also known as Grey Nuns of the Cross for 47 years says she has no idea how she and members of her community contracted the virus as they were strictly adhering to the prevention protocols.

In the wake of the first wave of the pandemic, the leadership of her Convent employed the services of a cleaning and disinfecting company, temporarily closed their guest rooms, and allowed their staff to reside at the Convent, Sr. Lithemba recalls last year’s events.

She explains, “At the moment, everyone had to stay in their rooms. There are sanitizers in every room and all entrances and exit points. We adhere to physical distancing in our dining hall and when we go for our daily prayers.”


She adds, “We have witnessed the existence of this virus in the harshest way, and we are taking our safety very seriously.”

For Sr. Lithemba who says she has “never seen such havoc brought about by a disease as during the COVID-19 pandemic,” a vaccine is “all the hope we need.”

“Every disease needs a cure, and even if this vaccine is not perfect, at least it minimizes the chances of death and being critically ill. That’s all the hope we need,” she says referencing the COVID-19 vaccination initiatives going on in the country since March 10.

In the April 17 report, the Nun who started her journey to religious life at the age of 20 “urges authorities to avail themselves of resources to enable the community engagement teams to visit all corners of every district.”

The community teams, she adds, “should focus on reaching out to everyone, including those in hard-to-reach areas.”

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