According to the World Bank and the Lesotho Bureau of Statistics, 75% of Basothos are either poor or vulnerable to poverty. People living in poverty cannot access basic services; clean running water, nutritious food, and medical care. Lesotho has one of the highest HIV prevalences in the world – over 23% of the 2.1 million population is HIV+. Unemployment is high, at 23%. Parents are often forced to leave their children to try and find work in South Africa. This, and the HIV crisis which has wiped out a generation of parents, has created around 300,000 orphans and vulnerable children. Shockingly, that is the equivalent of the UK having 9-10 million orphans wandering the streets looking for food.
Without anyone to look after them, children cannot find food. This leads to hunger, and hunger leads to malnutrition. Malnutrition is devastating and can be irreversible. It can lead to children being low weight for their height (wasting), short for their age (stunting) and low weight for their age (underweight). It reduces children’s ability to achieve their potential; many children are forced to drop out of school in order to find food, but even if you’re in school, if you’re hungry you won’t be able to concentrate. Coming to Msizi Africa’s feeding programmes provides our children with a nutritious meal which enables them to stay at school. The education they receive reduces the likelihood of being dependent on charity as adults, so it is critical to keep children in school in order to raise the whole country out of poverty.
“Poverty, the most degrading, dehumanising position any human being can find themselves in, leaves the door wide open for injustice, inequality and the whole gamut of human abuses,” Hon. Tlohelang Aumane, Lesotho Minister of Development Planning. “Every measure possible must be considered in order to wipe out poverty in our nation.”
Although we want to be part of wiping out poverty, we should not be doing this for Basothos; we should be enabling Basothos to do it themselves. A profile of Lesotho’s poor shows that poverty levels are highest among people in rural areas, in female-headed households, and among the less educated. This is why we carefully choose the villages that we work in – to have maximum impact and ensure that the most badly malnourished children are supported. We intend to leave the country by 2023 having set up a Milk Project to generate an income to fund the feeding programmes. Projects with longevity are the only way forward.
Photographs: Deborah King and Michael Herron, © Msizi Africa
Because of the covid 19 lockdown, we have been unable to fundraise which has resulted in a significant drop in our income. We are very sad to announce that we have to cut the number of villages we feed in from five to three, with the very painful reality that 57 children will now go without food every day. It is their only lifeline and one which we never, ever wanted to cut. We are truly sorry for the devastating impact this will have on the children.