Lesotho has faced environmental and social factors that constantly plague its people and halt the country’s essential development. Currently, almost 60% of the population is under the poverty line, 25% is without adequate nutrition and millions of citizens are suffering from appalling diseases. To unpack the gravity of the situation, the following is an overview of the factors influencing poverty in Lesotho.

Food Insecurity in Lesotho

Lesotho heavily relies on internal agriculture for its food supply. However, the country’s climate is extremely unpredictable, with each season bringing different and challenging weather conditions. In the summer, severe droughts cause soil erosion and suboptimal conditions for cultivation. In the fall, heavy rainfall makes land susceptible to severe flooding and the harsh winter temperatures reach the negatives. With such stark contrasts between temperatures and weather conditions throughout the year, crops cannot grow properly to sustain the dense population. Consequently, this further leads to severe food insecurity, food shortages and malnutrition in adults and children, which exacerbates the poverty in Lesotho as the climatic conditions force laborers to stay home to find ways to feed themselves and their families rather than go to work.

The Education Crisis

Within classrooms in Lesotho, many teachers do not have proper experience or training and there is a scarcity of furniture for students to write on or sit on. Furthermore, many classes in Lesotho are extremely overcrowded due to the dense population and there are often around 100 students per classroom. Rural children often have to walk miles to attend class, which prompts many children to miss multiple days of school due to unsafe weather conditions for travel. In Lesotho, the dropout rates are concerning, with 94% of elementary school dropouts residing in rural areas, and nearly 89% of higher-level education students also leaving school prematurely. The primary reason for these dropouts is the inability to afford education expenses. Moreover, the inaccessibility of standard education in Lesotho hampers students’ ability to access quality learning opportunities efficiently. 

The Impact of HIV/AIDS in Lesotho

In the past seven years, more than 180,000 people in Lesotho have lost their lives to HIV/AIDS, making it the leading cause of death in the country. Unfortunately, Lesotho has not had enough access to funding or treatments since the AIDS epidemic began in 1986 and the lack of adequate health care treatments in Lesotho gives allows the disease to infect more and more people. Moreover, the widespread impacts of HIV and AIDS reduce the healthy population of Lesotho, further handicapping the fragile economy.

The Impact of COVID-19

COVID-19 critically slowed down the export business in Lesotho, leaving the economy reeling. The main source of income in Lesotho before the pandemic was the prosperous textile industry, which exported millions of dollars worth of garments. During the pandemic, several clothing factories closed due to health concerns arising in light of the unbridled infection rate. With an initially high vulnerability to the COVID-19 infection in 2020, the Lesotho economy had to take a backseat as the working population of Lesotho recovered. The dwindling GDP of Lesotho, which decreased to a meager -5.6, highlighted the magnitude of the situation.

Lesotho’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has seen significant growth since then. Nevertheless, the enduring impact of the textile industry’s downturn remains evident in the current state of affairs. Prior to the pandemic, numerous textile factories supplied Western brands. However, with the decline in garment demand during that period, many factories closed at alarming rates, leading to substantial income losses. Over the past year, dozens of factories have shuttered due to dwindling revenue, resulting in thousands of workers losing their jobs.

While poverty in Lesotho has dropped over the past 15 years, it continues to impact a significant number of people. Luckily, several efforts are in progress to turn the country back around. 

Efforts to Combat HIV/AIDS

Over the past 16 years, The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) has donated more than $600 billion in aid to Lesotho, with a specific focus on combatting the widespread diseases across the country. Due to this vital funding, the organization was able to initiate programs to test the population and expand treatment availability nationwide. By the year 2020, the program successfully tested over 90% of the population and provided medication to over 90% of those who tested positive for the infections.

Since the program began, AIDS-related deaths have plateaued and infection case numbers have decreased from 320,000 to 270,000.

Educating the Youth

Regarding education, the World Bank is actively supporting the strengthening of schooling in Lesotho through substantial financial aid. This program is dedicated to enhancing the quality of education through standardized curriculums and implementing necessary changes in the learning environment after the impact of COVID-19. Currently, the program serves nearly 20,000 students and features plans to improve 300 classrooms across Lesotho.

Feeding the People

The World Food Programme in Lesotho has provided seedlings and restored miles of eroded lands for agriculture, aiding the reconstruction of the vast agricultural economy. So far, the organization planted 16,000 seedlings and rehabilitated 620 miles of eroded land. In doing so, the organization reintroduced thousands of people to main food sources, which will battle rampant malnutrition as the program expands its extraordinary influence. 

Looking Ahead

Efforts to combat poverty in Lesotho are showing promising results. The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) has made significant strides in combatting HIV/AIDS, resulting in a decrease in infection cases and AIDS-related deaths. The World Bank’s support in strengthening education is enhancing learning environments and providing opportunities for thousands of students. Additionally, the WFP’s initiatives in agriculture are restoring eroded lands and reintroducing vital food sources to combat malnutrition. These combined efforts offer hope for a brighter future for the people of Lesotho.

Divya Shankar

Photo: Pixabay

HIV in southern AfricaIn 2006, the Duke of Sussex partnered with Prince Seeiso of Lesotho to form Sentebale, a charity focused on providing psychosocial support for children and young adults living with HIV in southern Africa. It partners with grassroots organizations in Botswana, Lesotho and Malawi and works to improve adherence to HIV medication programs.


“We teach them that this human immunodeficiency virus does not have to be a death sentence for anyone anymore, that the real enemy we are fighting is stigma and the antiquated attitudes that work against young people coming forward when wanting to take an HIV test,” said Prince Harry in a speech during a dinner for Sentebale in January 2020.

The name Sentebale was chosen by Prince Harry and Prince Seeiso. It means “forget me not” in Sesotho, which is Lesotho’s official language. Princess Diana, Prince Harry’s late mother, and Queen ‘Mamohato, Prince Seeiso’s late mother, were both previously involved in work with children who had been affected by HIV/AIDS. The mission of Sentebale is to become the leading organization for psychosocial support for young people and children with HIV in southern Africa.

The Let Youth Lead Program

In recent years, Sentebale has found that social accountability and peer-to-peer support were central tools to bolstering its mission. In March 2017, Sentebale launched the Let Youth Lead program. The program’s objectives are to eventually have all young people in southern Africa know their HIV status, provide and promote peer-to-peer support and help young people to advocate for themselves at the government level. Another goal of the program is to empower these young advocates with the tools to assist their peers and have their voices heard.

“I volunteered because I wanted to help people. I don’t see this as work, I just want to transform people’s lives,” said Pheto Kutmela, a Sentebale Let Youth Lead advocate. Kutmela has been volunteering in Ha Makunyapane, Thaba-Tseka district, where he lives.

These youth advocates have been able to facilitate community dialogues in 30 community councils, where they are able to discuss challenges they have been facing and suggest improvements for going forward. It can typically be difficult for young people to have their voices heard at the governmental level and this program helps create a platform for them to do so, by giving them the tools to engage with policy leaders and address education and health services.

HIV/AIDS Progress in Botswana

Sentebale has overseen some transformative improvements in the HIV/AIDS epidemic over the past several years. In Botswana, HIV/AIDS infected less than 500 children under the age of 14 in 2018 and more than 95% of pregnant women living with HIV were receiving treatment.

Sentabale is in the process of developing a five-year strategy for the organization. In January 2020, it hosted an “initial workshop” to hear the voices of young people and children so that it can shape the organization’s future vision around their feedback. Looking forward to 2021, with a few adaptations in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sentebale will continue to prioritize its commitment toward empowering youth who HIV in southern Africa has affected.

– Katherine Musgrave
Photo: Flickr

How the US Benefits From Foreign Aid to Lesotho
Situated wholly within the country of South Africa, the small country of Lesotho is a member of a very rare group of countries which exist completely within the borders of a separate state. Lesotho’s population is roughly 2 million, and its geography is mainly highland. At its $1,160 GDP per capita, it is classified as a lower- and middle-income country by the World Bank. While it may seem as though this African monarchy should not demand the foreign aid of large developed countries, due to its relatively small size (about the size of Maryland) and population, quite the opposite is true. Here is a look into how the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Lesotho.


The U.S. is Lesotho’s largest trading partner with Lesotho sending 43.9 percent of its total exports to U.S. shores. Lesotho’s exports are mainly constituted of clothing (40 percent) and diamonds (22 percent).  Provided that these commodities are valued in the U.S., the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Lesotho because it will continue receiving exports at the current rate, which will likely grow given increasing development. Furthermore, Lesotho also gets 93 percent of its imports from South Africa. As Lesotho benefits from foreign aid, the market for South African goods increases. So investing in this small country could potentially benefit a much broader population in South Africa. With the U.S. being South Africa’s third largest import source, this could potentially increase as the prosperity of Lesotho grows.

Regional Security

Since the end of World War II, the U.S. has made global political stability a priority in its foreign policy. Like many decolonized nations, Lesotho has had much violence in its short existence. In 1966, Britain released its colonial rule on Lesotho, and the country was founded as a monarchy. However, in 1970, the country’s first Prime Minister Chief Leabua Jonathan suspended the constitution, exiled the king and ushered in a 23-year-period of authoritarian rule, complete with multiple coups and political repression. In the last five years, there have been armed clashes between the police force and the military. Unrest in Lesotho has involved South Africa in the past, and if Lesotho were to receive foreign aid, the benefits in political stability would also permeate South Africa.


In Lesotho, 24.6 percent of the adult population (15-49 years old) is infected with HIV/AIDS, compared to an estimated 18 percent of adults in South Africa. This staggering percentage, nearly a quarter of the population, is the second highest prevalence of the disease in the world. Young people make up a sizeable portion of this population, along with 13 percent of young women and 6 percent of young men in the country being HIV positive.  The U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Lesotho by achieving its goals for HIV/AIDS reduction and the improvement of global health. Lesotho is a key benefactor of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which is a U.S. governmental global initiative for the reduction of the global HIV/AIDS epidemic. PEPFAR would surely benefit by an increase in foreign aid funding.

Despite Lesotho’s small and landlocked status, it represents an area in which U.S. foreign aid can be utilized to help Lesotho’s people and benefit the economic, political and medical goals and interests of the United States.

– William Menchaca
Photo: Flickr

Common Diseases in LesothoThe Kingdom of Lesotho is a small country of 2 million people. Lesotho is completely surrounded by South Africa and is also very dependent on South Africa for jobs, resources and healthcare.

The average life expectancy in Lesotho is 50 years for men and 48 years for women. This low life expectancy is the result of the high prevalence of HIV/AIDS. The number one cause of death in Lesotho, HIV/AIDS has a mortality rate of 38.2 percent. The mortality rate for HIV/AIDS peaks in the 40-49 age group and nearly a quarter of the population between ages 15-49 are infected with HIV.


HIV/AIDS is the most common communicable disease in Lesotho. Perhaps the reason that communicable diseases are so pervasive in Lesotho is because behavioral risk factors are ubiquitous. Behavioral risk factors include unsafe sex, poor diet, tobacco smoke and drug and alcohol use. For deaths attributed to behavioral risk factors, unsafe sex is by far the most common, and attributes to 45.8 percent of deaths.

Unsurprisingly, unsafe sex is also the number one mode of transmission for HIV/AIDS. Other modes of transmission include pregnancy, breastfeeding and needle-sharing.

HIV transmission is clearly a problem in Lesotho but is not impossible to solve. The government of Lesotho and other organizations have implemented projects that strive to address the root causes of HIV transmission and provide treatment to as many sick people as possible.

In April 2016, the government of Lesotho provided universal treatment for persons with HIV. Lesotho has also committed to achieving the UNAIDS goal of 90-90-90 by 2020. With the 90-90-90 goal, 90 percent of all people with HIV will know their HIV status, 90 percent of people diagnosed with HIV will receive consistent treatment and 90 percent of people receiving treatment for their HIV will receive viral load suppression.

Center for Disease Control and Prevention

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Lesotho has collaborated with the Ministry of Health since 2007. The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) has been instrumental in allowing CDC Lesotho to assist the Ministry of Health in implementing a national HIV program. Through PEPFAR, CDC Lesotho has also provided all community-based testing for HIV.

Help Lesotho

Other projects and organizations aim to tackle the root causes of unsafe sex in Lesotho. Help Lesotho is an advocacy organization that, among many goals, promotes the prevention of HIV transmission. Help Lesotho specifies that an individual’s behavior is the only risk factor for contracting HIV.

Thus, Help Lesotho’s number one recommendation for avoiding HIV is wearing condoms. Their second two recommendations are taking prescribed treatment to prevent transmission and getting informed about HIV transmission.

The World Bank

A World Bank-funded team in Lesotho has promoted safe sex with lottery tickets. The researchers tested for two STIs in two groups of volunteers in Lesotho. Participants would return every four months for testing. Volunteers in the first group received a stipend for returning. Volunteers in the second group received a lottery ticket.

If the volunteers did not test positive for HIV, they would be entered into the lottery for a prize of $50, a large sum in Lesotho. The study found that after two years, the incidence of HIV infections decreased by 21.4 percent in the lottery-ticket group versus the stipend-group.

International Condom Day

On International Condom Day, February 2, 2017, three organizations teamed up to promote condom use in Lesotho. The United Nations Population Fund, Lesotho Planned Parenthood Association and Mothers to Mothers Organization held a condom use promotion in the village of Ha Ntema, Maboloka in the district of Mafeteng.

The goal of this day in Lesotho was to emphasize the importance of keeping condoms in the home. Previously, condoms were kept at the Councilor’s and Chief’s place and local shops, which made young people embarrassed to get them and ultimately discouraged condom use.

HIV is by far the most of common diseases in Lesotho, with a significantly higher mortality rate than other common diseases in Lesotho.

Despite this statistic, there is still hope. Efforts from the government of Lesotho and other organizations prove that addressing root causes and providing information and resources goes a long way in reducing the prevalence, incidence and mortality rate of HIV in Lesotho.

Christiana Lano

Photo: Flickr

Water and Sanitation in LesothoLesotho is a small landlocked country surrounded by South Africa, located within the Orange River Basin. Water resources in Lesotho are abundant, but scarcity in supply is due to climate change and the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP).

Water resources in Lesotho include high levels of rainfall that collect and drain off into the major river systems of the Senqu (Orange), Mohokare (Caledon) and Makhaleng. Because these resources exceed the Basotho population’s current levels of use, the country exports water to South Africa and other neighboring countries.

Water is Lesotho’s main income generator, earning millions of dollars for the country each year though the LHWP. Despite Lesotho’s economic dependence on the richness of its water resources, the country faces some water-related challenges.

Nearly 25 percent of the population lacks access to safe drinking water. In 2016, 17 percent of households in Lesotho reported using unprotected water sources. Climate change and variable rain patterns lead to periods of chronic drought in Lesotho, resulting in water shortages and Basotho people needing to walk hours to collect water.

Even worse is the provision of sanitation in Lesotho, with 75 percent of people lacking access to adequate sanitation services. Without sanitation facilities, or access to working toilets or latrines, people’s only option is open defecation. Open defecation and the absence of washing facilities get associated with poor hygiene and an increased risk for diarrheal diseases.

Children under the age of five are the most vulnerable group.  Each year, 500 children under the age of five die from diarrheal diseases caused by unsafe and inadequate water and sanitation in Lesotho.

The inability to access to safe drinking water and sanitation in Lesotho has impinged upon human development and poverty reduction. The Metolong Dam Project plans to increase water accessibility in Lesotho by 2020. Until then, the Basotho population has to deal with the chronic drought conditions and the far-reaching negative consequences resource shortages have for national health and development.

Gabrielle Doran

Photo: Flickr

Geographically surrounded by the entire nation of South Africa, education in Lesotho, a mountainous country, has maintained an incredible track record. Boasting one of the highest adult literacy rates in all of Africa, Lesotho prides itself on its educational policies and opportunities.

Following the passage of the Education Act in 2010, education in Lesotho experienced tremendous success: by providing free, universal and compulsory education for students, the nation increased the rate of enrollment to 82 percent. In fact, of all the school-aged girls in the nation, 84 percent are enrolled in school.

Similar to many parts of the United States, Lesotho mandates a formal education structure that places students in primary school starting at the age of six. From there, students remain in primary school for seven years (from grades one through seven), enter lower secondary school from grades eight through 10, and complete their education with upper secondary school in grades 11 and 12.

Although the nation has made significant progress, organizations such as the Global Partnership for Education have been working to improve education in Lesotho. As of 2015, they helped reduce the student-to-teacher ratio in primary schools to 45:1 and purchased 1.1 million textbooks throughout the country. They also helped build, reform and furnish 143 classrooms.

In fact, with the World Bank Group’s approval of $25 million for education in Lesotho, leaders project that another 84,500 students will benefit. Lasting until 2021, the project will support teachers, improve student learning and retention and bolster institutional capacity. The project will also aim to reduce dropout rates in 300 of the lowest-performing schools, many of which are inaccessible and are located in poverty-stricken rural areas.

Higher education is also a priority in Lesotho. Through thirteen private and public institutions, including the National University of Lesotho, Lerotholi Polytechnic, Lesotho College of Education and the Limkokwing University of Creative Technology, Lesotho serves the needs of its students interested in pursuing higher education.

In Lesotho, women’s literacy rates remain incredibly high. Recent statistics suggest that, despite a high number of out-of-school girls, 95 percent of all Lesotho women are literate. This suggests that some success is emerging as a result of the educational policies put forward in Lesotho.

Although there remains room for improvement, as no system can ever truly be perfect, Lesotho has made incredible strides as a nation in prioritizing and developing their educational system. Through international support and continued relief efforts, the nation will inevitably reach their goal of providing education for all in the near future.

Emily Chazen

Photo: Flickr

In response to apartheid in South Africa, refugees emerged in Lesotho in the 1960s. These refugees—the majority of whom were South African and children or teenagers—play a crucial role in defining Lesotho’s vibrant society. Here are 10 facts about refugees in Lesotho.

10 Facts About Refugees in Lesotho

  1. Home to fewer than 10,000 refugees, Lesotho began implementing projects to help grant loans and business training to refugees in 1983. Of the 17 businesses which ultimately emerged, only one was run by a woman.
  2. Lesotho has been incredibly welcoming to refugees, ensuring their integration into local Basotho communities and serving as a global paradigm of refugee inclusivity and acceptance.
  3. In 2005, in an attempt to solidify its commitment to refugee protection, Limakatso Ntlhoki of Lesotho held a four-day workshop intended to help people develop the skills for working with refugees and guaranteeing their protection.
  4. Lesotho has been deemed a “South African Development Community” (SADC) alongside fifteen other countries such as Botswana, Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe. Recent statistics indicate that SADC countries are home to approximately 68 percent of international migrants living in South Africa.
  5. In June 2017, the Vodafone Foundation put forward a system for young refugees living in nations, including Lesotho, to gain free and unlimited access to online education using tablets.
  6. During apartheid, Lesotho’s rural regions served as a safe haven for a number of political refugees escaping the wrath of a government who rejected their ideas. However, when the country was threatened by South Africa, they helped a significant number of refugees flee and obtain safety.
  7. The 1983 Lesotho Refugee Act guarantees that the country will provide refugees with the rights laid out by the United Nations Convention and the 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees. They also incorporated the criterion outlined by the OAU Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa, which rendered their definition amongst the most inclusive in terms of explicating the legal status of refugees in the world.
  8. The former Prime Minister of Lesotho, Chief Leabua Jonathan, attested to the United Nations General Assembly that Lesotho maintained full respect for human dignity, would not use violence towards refugees, and recognized their moral responsibility to help solve their problems through support and openness.
  9. In response to Lesotho’s refugee policies, nations such as India and Thailand praised the nation for its willingness to welcome individuals despite South African threats.
  10. In 2002, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) returned 48 brick homes originally used to house refugees in Lesotho to the country’s government, thereby indicating the true end of apartheid and highlighting the ways in which the nation could be entrusted to maintain respectful living conditions for refugees without external intervention.

These 10 facts about refugees in Lesotho illuminate how the country has, since the 1960s, experienced tremendous success in its relationship with refugees. Ultimately, this undeniable altruism indicates that Lesotho ought to be lauded as an example of how to positively incorporate refugees into societies throughout the world.

Emily Chazen

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Lesotho
Gaining independence from the U.K. in 1966, Lesotho has aspired to develop economically, socially and environmentally. Like many African nations, however, Lesotho has also faced a difficult struggle with poverty alleviation. In fact, according to the World Bank, approximately 57 percent of the population still lives in extreme poverty,  which provides an incentive to understand the factors at play. As such, here are five major aspects of persisting poverty in Lesotho today:

  1. Geography. Lesotho is a mountainous enclave of South Africa meaning that not only is the nation landlocked from trading ports, but it faces a difficult terrain as well. The country is also currently in the midst of a multiyear drought which has ravaged the productivity of agricultural sectors. Together, this implies poor infrastructure, rising food prices and an environment vulnerable to consequences of overgrazing and soil erosion — all of which contribute to enduring poverty in Lesotho. Related to its geography, approximately two-thirds of the workforce remains employed in agricultural sectors, which presents an additional challenge to development.
  2. High unemployment rates. The fact that so many laborers work in agriculture, other employment opportunities are extremely limited in Lesotho. The garment and mining industries support the highest percentages of the workforce, but profits are currently in decline for both sectors. Hence, unemployment rates are reported to be around one-third of the population with a particularly high concentration among young Basotho. The resulting disparity of prolonged unemployment also contributes to high levels of income inequality. Without adequate social transfer programs, it follows that the unemployed are inevitably trapped in extraordinarily high levels of poverty.
  3. Health concerns. The HIV and AIDS pandemics took root in Lesotho just the same as other states in Southern Africa. According to the U.N., in the 15 year period between 1990 and 2005, life expectancy in Lesotho plummeted by more than 15 years. Mortality rates for infants, children and mothers followed a similar trajectory. While the country is on the rebound today, figures have not yet restored to 1980 levels. Additionally, concerns are further exacerbated by a lack of quality healthcare facilities. Without a healthy population, the economy of Lesotho will be stunted by continuing poverty.
  4. Lesotho’s international partnership. To begin, make no mistake that Lesotho does reap major benefits from its location within South Africa. South African forces have provided stability during times of unrest, and South Africa has led international coalitions to assist Lesotho with development strategies.  Lesotho even taxed South Africa for water usage following the completion of the Metelong Dam project. However, it is equally concerning how heavy reliance on South Africa hinders Lesotho’s own growth. For example, approximately 90 percent of the goods consumed in Lesotho are imported from its neighbor. Many families in Lesotho also survive on incomes from migrants who left the country looking for work. Economically, the lack of resources in Lesotho has contributed to an international dependency making it more susceptible to crises such as the recent Eskom power interruptions or the rising levels of debt.
  5. Infrastructure. Existing transportation networks in Lesotho may be adequate, but they are severely lacking in size. According to the CIA World Factbook, the entire country only has three paved airports and about 660 miles of paved roadways. Access to utilities was similarly absent with only 17 percent of the population receiving electricity, and only 16 percent able to access the internet and the water supply outside the capital city of Maseru. Notably, rural areas, where the majority of the population resides, are disproportionately lacking these services. All of these factors contribute to the multi-dimensional nature of poverty in Lesotho.

Lesotho’s outlook is not entirely disconcerting. Women in Lesotho boast one of the highest literacy rates in all of Africa, reflecting Lesotho’s commitment to both education and gender equality. In fact, the percentage of GDP spent on education is the largest of any country in the world. Likewise, women in Lesotho report higher human development levels than their male counterparts in all areas except overall income. While there are admittedly several factors to consider for overcoming poverty in Lesotho, it is likely that solutions will continue to build on the nation’s current strengths.

Zack Machuga

Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in LesothoUNICEF and the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ) have announced that they will launch four pilot health centers in 2016. As a result, thousands of rural residents may be able to receive basic health care in Lesotho.

The health centers, called One Stop Shops, are an effort to bring HIV, malnutrition, blood pressure screenings, immunizations and infant checkups to the most remote areas of the country. Community members in mountain regions are currently unable to get these services without traveling to district capitals, which is a severe hardship that often deters them from seeking help at all.

“Without easy access to these service providers, they won’t go after these services,” said district council secretary for Maseru, Mamajara Lehloenya. “One wouldn’t take the initiative to go test your high blood pressure (hypertension) unless you are very sick.”

This is a serious problem in a country facing a number of national health burdens. The most recent reports from the World Health Organization indicate that the hypertension prevalence rate is more than 30 percent. HIV affects over 23 percent of the population. At the same time, Lesotho is experiencing an under-five mortality rate of 100/1000 children.

To remedy this lack of accessible health care in Lesotho, which is taking away lives, UNICEF and GIZ are bringing services to the most accessible level of government: community councils.

After the pilot phase is over, agencies hope that One Stop Shop will be a “reliable information hub” where community members can learn what services they can receive near home and how to receive them. One Stop Shop also aims to strengthen the referral network for more technical services offered in the capitals.

Social workers will also be included in the initiative in order to assist residents with government documents, including birth certificates and identification cards, as these are often necessary to receive help outside of local communities.

Empowering rural citizens of Lesotho to take charge of their health is critical to sustainably improving human and economic development in the country.

“By linking them to services that build their human capital – like health and education – a safety net of public assistance programs can help the poor rise out of long-term poverty,” said UNICEF Social Protection Consultant Betina Ramirez.

The efforts will complement those of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), which has been working to build capacity in the country, especially in the agricultural sector. UNDP urges that, together, improving health and food security will be critical if Lesotho is to get back on track with the Millennium Development Goals.

Ron Minard

Photo: Flickr

Like many countries in Africa, Lesotho faces a multifaceted humanitarian crisis in which issues are intertwined and often exacerbated by each other’s presence. The Lesotho government estimates that around 725,000 people, or about a third of the population, are in need of some form of humanitarian aid. Lesotho has the third highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS with almost a full quarter of adults ages 15-49 infected with the virus.

Furthermore, the United Nations estimates that almost 9,000 children under the age of 5 are severely malnourished in Lesotho. In 2009, a study conducted by the World Food Program (WFP) estimated that 39 percent of children under 5 years old exhibited signs of stunted growth resulting from malnutrition. UN research shows that school attendance for young boys and girls has been decreasing in recent years as well. This is likely due to families reliance on children to assist with increasing agricultural responsibilities.

Unpredictable weather conditions such as floods and droughts have burdened the production and availability of food in addition to other necessary resources. These factors have also contributed to increases in soil erosion and infertile lands. Minimal access to secure, high yielding seeds has also been an obstacle. These fluctuations of climate, coupled with the constant demand for staples such as maize, oil and sugar have caused prices to increase. All of these factors have contributed to malnutrition in Lesotho.

In an effort to combat the drastic price increases, UNICEF, WFP and the Lesotho government are working to implement relief measures. Efforts to adapt to irregular climate conditions are also in place. The Food & Agriculture Organization of the UN has created the Emergency & Resilience Program along with the Lesotho government to implement long term procedures such as subsistence farming and agro-conservation tactics. So far, the program has aided almost 20,000 farmers in Lesotho.

In 2007, UNICEF helped create the Lesotho Child Grants Program that affords impoverished families 40 U.S. dollars each quarter to purchase basic necessities. The program helps over 10,000 families and is being expanded to provide assistance to over 15,000. In addition, the dollar amount allocated to each family will be increased by 94 U.S. dollars.

Puseletso Tsiu is a recipient of the child grant who has greatly benefited from the program’s assistance. Tsiu’s two daughters died of AIDS and she has assumed responsibility for their childrens’ care. As a result of the extra support, she has been able to buy pairs of shoes for her orphaned grandchildren to wear to school. A commonplace purchase in the first world, such as the purchase of shoes, is viewed as a crucial investment in countries like Lesotho.

The National School Feeding Policy, sponsored by the WFP, provides two meals per day for students who can meet attendance requirements. For many families, the program provides an added educational and economic incentive to send young children to school. Families like Tsiu’s rely heavily upon the meals provided in schools so they can save money by not feeding them at home. In total, this program provides meals for over 400,000 students in Lesotho.

In the case of Lesotho, it has been demonstrated that international unity between organizations and governments can make a positive difference. “Kopano ke matla” is an old saying in Lesotho that roughly translates to “unity is power.” When faced with such adverse conditions, the meaning and power of this phrase must not be underestimated.

– The Borgen Project

Photo: World Food Programme