Monday, 20 April 2009
Lesotho, a country within a country - Images by Rafael Sanchez
Lesotho, a small country landlocked by South Africa, was established in 1824 as the mountain fortress for tribes united together against the attacking Zulu and is now home to 2.2 million Basotho. Proud of its African heritage, few people in the highlands of this beautiful and rugged country speaks English or Afrikaans.
Despite a long struggle for freedom and independence, Lesotho’s economy and politics still depend heavily today on some of the more powerful countries in the area.
The use of the traditional legal system in the tribunals is based on the social structure established during colonial times; the investment of foreign companies in local factories goes back in history to the European domination; the arrival of Chinese population to control through chains of supermarkets the food and clothes trade is yet another relatively new global trend to increase dependency, and the development of the overwhelmed health system wouldn’t be possible without international support.
With 29 percent of the population believed to be living with HIV and
less than a quarter knowing they are infected, the rate in Lesotho has risen to the fourth highest in the world. Less than 15 percent of those in need of treatment are receiving it, resulting in thousands of preventable deaths. With high rates of infection, malnourishment, and death, the life expectancy is rapidly approaching 40 years of age. Young women constitute 75 percent of all reported HIV/AIDS cases between the ages of 15-29 years and only five percent of infected pregnant women receive medication to reduce the risk of transmitting HIV to her child, a medication that costs $5.00 per pregnancy.
All Basotho women are considered legally the child of their husband, and must obtain their husband’s approval to have surgery, take contraceptives, take out a loan or run for public office.
The government of Lesotho was initially slow to recognize the scale of the crisis, and its efforts to date in combating the spread of the disease have had limited success.
In 1999, the government finalized its Strategic Plan on HIV/AIDS, a diagram for addressing the education, prevention, counseling, and treatment needs of the population. In 2005, plans for the distribution of anti-retrovirals were initiated. However, such programs remain limited in resources and have relatively few participants.
The economic, social and cultural impact is huge and affects everyone and everything in the community, since 80 percent of Lesotho’s population lives in rural villages and is dependent on subsistence agriculture for livelihood. In places like Mokhotlong, a remote and isolated village with big hopes and challenges, poverty, drought, high unemployment, a dependence on migratory work, and recurring food crises continue to worsen the life conditions of the whole population.
Once known as the loneliest place in Africa, Mokhotlong lies at the end of the tarmac and still gets cut off from the rest of civilization for days or weeks at a time in winter. It began life as a police outpost at the beginning of last century and gradually evolved into a trading centre for the region, but even today continues to get the bulk of its supplies by pony from South Africa.
Volunteers working with organizations like Touching Tiny Lives take care of HIV positive orphans who contracted the virus at birth or from breast-feeding. Other Ngo's like The Louis Gregory Foundation work with local schools to promote different activities within the community to improve their education and awareness regarding AIDS.
One of the main goals is to teach young people in developing countries the moral responsibility and accountability of every individual regarding the destiny of the world. Those living in disadvantaged communities learn to use their skills as potential vehicles for change. Each community adapt the learning plan to the community needs, education standards, human resources and cultural complexities of the society.
More than 800 children in Mokhotlong participate now in the development of their own neighbourhood, addressing big problems in the area like unemployment, alcoholism, ethnic and cultural prejudice and HIV/AIDS infected orphans.