Lesotho Red Cross Society (LRCS) introduced four projects to district stakeholders of Berea, Butha Buthe, Leribe, and Maseru from September 22nd to 24th this year.

According to the Programs Director of LRCS Mr. Sechaba Mokhameleli the four projects that were introduced included Safe Schools and Communities, Sexual Reproduction Health, and Plastic Waste Management Projects.

“The projects are funded by UNICEF Lesotho, WFP, and UNDP Lesotho respectively. Child Protection Project is going to be implemented in five districts of the country; Berea, Mafeteng. Mokhotlong, Qacha’s Nek and Mafeteng, he added.

“Lesotho Red Cross Society will be visible in nine districts implementing either one of the four projects,” Mr. Mokhameleli informed the stakeholders when making introductory remarks.

He said the four projects that are to be implemented in nine districts respectively include Safe Schools and Communities which is going to be in 7 districts except for Mafeteng, Mohale’Hoek, and Thaba-Tseka; Child Protection which will be implemented in five districts; Butha-Buthe, Mafeteng, Mokhotlong, Qacha’s Nek and Thaba-Tseka.; Sexual Reproduction Health will be in Mokhotlong, Qacha’sNek and Thaba-Tseka, and Plastic Waste Management which will be in Leribe and Maseru.

According to Retselisitsoe Ratikoane; a Member of District Health Management Teams, the Butha-Buthe district is faced with the challenge of Gender and Child abuse which will be dealt with through the Child-Protection project. Ratikoane indicated that there were already some cases before the pandemic and that those cases escalated due to COVID 19 Pandemic.

During these meetings, it was revealed that young girls were married off in exchange for money due to the economic effects of COVID 19 on families where people lost jobs hence their engagement of children in negative coping mechanisms.

“Because of schools’ closure, children had enough time being at home which enabled them to watch certain things on their phones hence an urge to practice what they watched, leading them to unexpected pregnancies at a young age,” Ratikoane explained.

The Butha-Buthe District Disaster Management Officer Mr. Phano Ntene added that some young boys were let to be hired as shepherds to allow their families to have food when their parents lost jobs. Other than these, Mrs. Manana Ratau from the Ministry of Education and Training expressed that those children are not only vulnerable to child protection issues at home, but also in schools.

She explained a young girl aged 13 was expelled from home by her mother because she arrived home late. She indicated that the mother ordered a girl to return to wherever she came from, and because of her vulnerability of not knowing where she could go, she met a man who married her.

Mrs. Makatleho Senaoana of Social Development explained that children are left unattended while their parents seek jobs in the neighbouring country, leaving them vulnerable to protection issues.

“Sometimes these children do not have enough food hence some would enter into relationships with old men who could provide them with food. Some of these children were raped by their family members and their cases were kept a secret by the family,” Senaoana said.

The children and people who have lost their family members through COVID 19 will receive Psychosocial support.

The Meeting had representatives from District Disaster Management Offices, Lesotho Correctional Services, Bureau of Statistics, Food National Coordinating Office, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Social Development, Ministry of Education and Training, Food Management Unit, Ministry of Water, Lesotho Mounted Police Services, District Office Councils, Lesotho News Agency and Lesotho Red Cross.

LRCS Secretary General, Programs Director and Staff

The Berea Red Cross Divisional Secretary, Ms. Nneko Hababa, indicated that they cannot do much without cooperation with stakeholders. She added that she was thankful for the support they have been receiving from them and that they are going to join hands in executing these projects.

The Society’s Secretary-General Mr. Kopano Masilo thanked all participants for making time for the meetings. He added that the Society complements what stakeholders are doing for Basotho.

“We are thankful for the support you have been showing our communities for years. Let us work together towards the success of these projects so that we can go out to source more funds to assist the vulnerable. When we work together, we become stronger. We will keep assisting the children so that even if our times have passed, they will someday be proud of us; how we had positively impacted their lives” Mr. Masilo

Mr. Mokhameleli outlined the aim of the project as being to strengthen the COVID19 awareness, its level of infection prevention, community engagement, and coordination to respond and mitigate virus infection in communities and schools.

The safe schools’ project is funded by UNICEF Lesotho to the tune of M3 Million for one year, the Sexual Reproductive Health funded by the World Food Program to the tune of M280 000 for three months, Child protection to the tune of M716 000 for six months and the Plastic Waste Management project funded by UNDP Lesotho to the tune of 150,000 for three months.