Lesotho

 

In this country, this impoverished country

Endangered are rhinos and leopards, but not monkeys

From the animals, we’ll be safe

But Lesotho is a dangerous place 

 

Prevalent are purse snatching, pick pocketing and mugging

Homicide rates rank 6th in the world, so no shrugging!

Zip up, watch out, and stay together

We’ll manage in all kinds of weather

 

The capital, Maseru, a very attractive city

Isn’t that hat-shaped building pretty?

On left is the Parliament Building of Maseru’s

Shall we visit it before we go?  

Population is growing slowly

Birth rates high, as is infant mortality

Three-fifths are younger than 29 and what’s more

Life expectancy - one of the lowest in the world - is 54

 

Guess what!  Primary education is free

Secondary education in 2 or 3 year cycles respectively

In spite of  its problems, Lesotho ranks #1 in literacy

 

Politics and corruption do abound

So much so that this news was found


In 2020, President Thabane & his current wife

Were charged with taking his second & ex- wife’s life

Case is still underway as he is seeking immunity

Not quite up to what we think governments should be. 

 

What shall we do for fun?

Well, the Sotho dancers have just begun

Artistry, pottery we could see

Or maybe judo, boxing, horse racing or running

 

Next read more about Lesotho

Then to SLF’s initiatives you can go

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The straw hat, a mokoroatio, is the national symbol. The design is saaid to be inspired by the conical Mt. Qiloane

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We struggle uphill to The Kingdom of Lesotho .  It is entirely surrounded by  South Africa.  (There are only two other countries in the world like that, Vatican City and San Marino)  We are going to the capital, Maseru
 

Frida Kasabo of mothers2mothers agrees to be our guide.  She tells us proudly that the original inhabitants of Lesotho were the San people.  There are examples of their rock art  in the mountains throughout the area.  This very much threatened people now exist only in small communities in southern Africa.  They are beautifully portrayed in the 1980s movie “The Gods Must be Crazy”

In the early 1800s Moshoeshoe, a minor chief, settled at the Butha-Buthe Mountain, joining with others who were escaping the  Mfecane  (The Crushing) during the reign of the powerful and brutal Zulu Chief Shaka.  The resisters named their mountain stronghold Basutholand and Moshoeshoe reigned there as King from 1822 until 1868.  

King Moshoeshoe

He was a clever ruler and managed to hold off the influx of Trekboers, who were moving north from the Cape Colony in search of farmland.  But in 1868 Queen Victoria made Basutholand a British Protectorate.  Half the territory was ceded to the Boers and Moshoeshoe’s capital was moved to a police camp in the north at Maseru.  King Moshoeshoe died in 1870 and is buried at Thaba Bosiu.

Frida tells us that Basutoland declared independence in 1966 but since then there have been interesting problems, with Prime Ministers refusing to cede power when they lost elections and the descendants of King Moshoeshoe I sometimes in exile, sometimes  living as ceremonial monarchs and sometimes interfering in the governing of the country.

Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro is now the head of government.  King Letsie III, isn’t allowed to participate in political initiatives.

 

We are breathing a bit hard because of the altitude.  Lesotho’s lowest point of 1,400 metres is the highest lowest point of any country in the world!
 

Frida says about 40 million tons of farming soil are lost each year due to erosion. Many people living outside of urban areas rely on subsistence farming as their primary source of income.  Rainfall in 2019 was only 20% of the normal rate. Lack of clean water causes typhoid and diarrhea and lack of available water means women and girls must travel long distances to collect water while running the risk of being physically or sexually assaulted.

 

Many Lesotho women work in the apparel sector, and the men migrate to South Africa to work in the mines for three to nine months.

 

Lesotho is the largest exporter of garments to the US from sub-Saharan Africa.  If you buy clothes from Foot Locker, Gap, Sears, Timberland or Wal-Mart, chances are they came from Lesotho.  

 

Katse Dam

The  Lesotho Highlands Water Project  captures, stores and transfers water from the Orange River system to South Africa's Free State.  Last year Lesotho generated approximately US$70 million from the sale of electricity and water to South Africa.

Diamonds are produced at 4 mines, last year worth US$300 million.  The official currency is the loti , used interchangeably with the South African rand.  

 

Lesotho has one of the highest literacy rates in Africa.  Although education is not compulsory, the Government of Lesotho is gradually introducing a program for free primary education.  But Lesotho's residents still struggle for access to vital services, such as healthcare, transport and educational resources.

The traditional style of housing in Lesotho is called a mokhoro.  Many older houses outside Maseru are of this type, with walls usually constructed from large stones cemented together.  We see a few with baked mud bricks and  thatched roofs and quite a lot with corrugated roofing sheets.

Traditional dress is the Basotho blanket, a thick covering made primarily of wool.  We notice that men and women wear their blankets  differently.

As we head back to Maseru with the truck radio playing,  Frida tells us about traditional musical instruments including the lekolulo, a kind of flute used by herding boys, the setolo-tolo, played by men using their mouth, and the woman's stringed thomo

The national anthem of Lesotho is "Lesotho Fatše La Bo-ntata Rona", which literally translates into "Lesotho, Land of Our Fore-Fathers".

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SLF Supports Projects in Lesotho

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A nurse & HIV Testing Services Mentor Mother crossing a river to get to a hard to reach community.

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mothers2mothers, Maseru 100, Lesotho .

In 2000, Mitch Besser moved to Cape Town, South Africa.  In his medical practice he saw women who learned that they were HIV positive during their first prenatal visit.  Many of them fled the clinic, never to return.  Those who stayed did not get much counseling or education about their disease from the overworked doctors and nurses.  A third of them gave birth to HIV positive babies.  

 

Dr. Besser realized that the other two-thirds – HIV-positive mothers who remained strong and took steps to reduce the risk of infecting their babies – could be trained to work alongside clinic staff to comfort and counsel the terrified young women who had just learned their HIV status at the prenatal clinic.  He launched m2m in 2001.  His friend Gene Falk moved to Cape Town and served as m2m’s executive director for a decade.  

m2m trains, employs, and helps empower HIV-positive women to work as community healthcare workers in understaffed health centres and underserved communities.  Through a peer-to-peer approach, these ‘Mentor Mothers’ deliver a range of health services, advice, and support to women and their families.  In 2017, m2m and its partners enrolled 2.3 million new clients.  m2m has virtually eliminated mother-to-child transmission of HIV among the enrolled clients it serves directly for the last four years, with an average transmission rate of just 1.6%, while 97% of children in its ECD programmes meet all of their development milestones at 12 months. 

Frida Kasabo is the County Director of m2m in Maseru.  This year she announced, “For the first time in m2m’s 19-year history, we are employing nurses—currently 11 of them, to work alongside the 328 women we employ as Mentor Mothers in Lesotho and help provide high-quality comprehensive antenatal and postnatal services to women and their families.”

They made this decision because of the “Three Delays”—a public health model adopted by the World Health Organization to identify three types of delays that contribute to maternal mortality. 

#1: fear of being ill-treated in the health facilities, cultural beliefs associated with maternal health,

# 2: reaching health care involves long distances to the nearest health facility, poor roads, absence of emergency transportation, and a lack of awareness of the health services that are available.  

# 3: A shortage  of healthcare providers, combined with insufficient quantities of essential medicine and other supplies, make it difficult for many people in Lesotho to get the vital health services they need.

 

A nurse & HIV Testing Services Mentor Mother crossing a river to get to a hard to reach community.

The nurses have been strategically placed in high volume sites and in a few low volume sites that have limited medical staff, providing clinical services in close coordination with Mentor Mothers.  Nurses and Mentor Mothers travel to villages twice a month to bring clinical care and support services directly to women and families, especially in the hardest-to-reach areas.  They engage women and families through traditional leaders, who have great influence on who can access and work in their communities.

 

The nurses offer a range of clinical services, including home-based screening for HIV and pregnancy, initiation on antiretroviral treatment and refills, dispensing family planning advice and supplies, and infant HIV testing.   Mentor Mothers continue to provide m2m’s core health and support services, encouraging women and families to seek vital health services, adhere to treatment, and stay in care through group education and one-on-one peer interactions.   

 

They conduct door-to-door visits to help identify women and families in remote areas who have not received medical services or dropped out of care.  They link them to Mentor Mothers at health centres, who support them to access care and stay on treatment.

Malealea Development Trust Mafeteng, Lesotho

Board Chair Dr. Mahao Mahao tells us: our first area of focus is Health and Well-Being, focusing on supporting the HIV+ members of our community.  Today, about a quarter of our population is HIV+, and although they do have access to the antiretroviral (ARV) medication they need from our local clinic, living positively with HIV entails much more than mere access to medication.  We fight stigma, get people tested, ensure that they have enough food to take with their medication and help them to follow their specific drug regimens.

Our second key area of focus is caring for these Orphaned and Vulnerable Children, who have not only suffered the severe emotional trauma of losing a parent but whose futures have also been put at risk by an epidemic outside of their control.  Our social care worker monitors their home and academic lives and a scholarship fund sends them to school.  We stage events like concerts, camps and sports days throughout the year to support their emotional and intellectual development.  There are children living with disability in our community, who we both advocate for and financially support.

Education is our third area of focus.  Students are dropping out of our schools at alarming rates.  They are overcrowded, underfunded, under-supplied, and under-regulated.  We build and refurbish classrooms to reduce overcrowding and improve the learning environment.  We also provide services to supplement our students’ learning, like our computer training program and our children’s library program.

 

Many of the children who should be students now have to take time to assist their families make their subsistence living, which is always precarious.

 

Our fourth area of focus is Community Development.  These projects are designed to improve the productivity of our people to help them generate income in a sustainable way and improve their quality of life.

 

About COVID the Malealea website says, “ In many ways the remote and rural character of our beautiful valley is a strength, but at this time it heightens our vulnerability to the threat of this pandemic.”