Helping Out Vulnerable Orphans and their Families in Lesotho

18/01/2012 - A jointly-funded programme by the European Union, UN Children's Fund and Lesotho's government is helping vulnerable families, such as granny-headed households, make ends meet.

Granny-headed households in Lesotho are struggling to make ends meet. But, thanks to national and international donors, many are receiving vital financial support.

In the village of Matsieng, one grandmother,

Mampho Tumane, raises her seven grandchildren on only 360 maloti (about $44) every three months. The funds are given to her under a cash transfer programme, the United Nations Childrens Fund (UNICEF) reports.

Almost a quarter of the population in the small country of two million people is HIV-positive. Adults HIV prevalence is 23 per centthe third-highest in the world after Swaziland and Botswana. The country is home to 130,000 AIDS orphans, which is to say that about 13 per cent of children and 7 per cent of the entire population is orphaned.

The Lesotho Child Grants Programme has about 10,000 beneficiary households in five districts of the small, landlocked country. It is one component of the social protection system supported by the federal government, European Union (EU) and UNICEF since 2007. The Government-EU-UNICEF programme is also working to reverse the spread of the disease by disseminating information on HIV/AIDS and the prevention of transmission. Aid is also provided for early childhood education and school uniforms.

It is important for the EU to be relevant to this major challenge through our social protection efforts. We have made good progress so far, said Ambassador Hans Duynhouwer of the EU Delegation in Lesotho to UNICEF.

The social protection programmes not only aim to meet beneficiaries material needs but their emotional ones as well. Community facilitators and social workers visit households to ensure that the best interests of the child are being met.

While HIV/AIDS is a major public health disaster, the effects of the pandemic continue to spill over into the social and economic spheres. Family structure disintegrates as children lose their parents and the economy loses steam as productive workers fall ill, unable to work.

Communities are proving just how resilient they can be and programmes such as this one can help treat the current symptoms of HIV/AIDS while preventing the disease at the same time. Across Africa, there remains much to be done to stamp out AIDS forever.

An estimated 16.6 million children have lost their parents to AIDS-related illnesses. More than 15 million of these children reside in sub-Saharan Africa.

Undoubtedly, among the worst-affected regions on the continent is southern Africa. Countries in this region have some of the highest rates of HIV prevalence and income inequality in the world. More than 5.4 million AIDS orphans live in only ten countriesall in southern Africa: Lesotho, South Africa, Swaziland, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique, Angola and Namibia based on 2009 estimates by UNICEF.

How many AIDS orphans live in southern Africa?

  • Lesotho: 130,000
  • South Africa: 1,900,000
  • Swaziland: 69,000
  • Botswana: 93,000
  • Zimbabwe: 1,000,000
  • Zambia: 690,000
  • Malawi: 650,000
  • Mozambique: 670,000
  • Angola: 140,000
  • Namibia: 70,000

Some of the most desperately needed interventions to help these children, their families and communities are social safety nets, access to health, education and nutrition, employment and livelihoods training, social protection laws and rights recognition, access to life-saving HIV medication, and psychosocial care.