Lesotho misses out on COVID-19 aid




MASERU – Lesotho will not benefit from the United Nations (UN)’s US$2 billion (over M35 billion) co-ordinated Global Humanitarian Response Plan (GHRP) that is envisaged to protect millions of people in Africa and other regions of the globe. The country, however, may stand a chance in subsequent bailouts depending on the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis. The initial humanitarian response package will assist a total of 51 countries across South America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

Governments have been urged to commit to fully supporting the global humanitarian response plan, while sustaining funding to existing humanitarian appeals. The response plan will be implemented by UN agencies, with international Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and NGO consortia playing a direct role. Lesotho, however, is not among the countries and territories covered by this opening COVID-19 GHRP, according to the Deputy Spokesperson UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Jens Laerke.

Laerke clarified in an interview with Public Eye last week that the US$2 billion is set to enable humanitarian agencies and their partners to respond to the immediate humanitarian consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic in places that are already struggling with conflicts, disasters, climate change, displacement and other humanitarian problems. “Lesotho is not among the countries covered by this initial plan but the global situation will be monitored closely and there is a possibility that Lesotho may be included in subsequent versions depending on the evolution of the situation,” Laerke said in an interview with Public Eye last week.

He went on to reveal that Covid-19 GHRP was not a fund, but rather an appeal by humanitarian agencies that donors are invited to contribute funding towards. “At this stage, we are appealing for fully flexible funding, which can be allocated across countries as needed, in light of the fast moving nature of the pandemic.

“There are therefore no country-specific budgets in this first iteration of the appeal. However, subsequent versions may include specific country budgets as the situation becomes clearer,” he added. In a statement released on Wednesday last week, the UN Secretary General, Antonio Gutiérrez, noted that failing to help vulnerable countries fight the virus now could place millions at risk and leave the virus free to circle back around the globe.

“COVID-19 is menacing the whole of humanity and so the whole of humanity must fight back. Individual country responses are not going to be enough. We must come to the aid of the ultra-vulnerable millions upon millions of people who are least able to protect themselves. “This is a matter of basic human solidarity. It is also crucial for combating the virus. This is the moment to step up for the vulnerable,” Gutiérrez said in the statement.

Similar sentiments were echoed by the Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, Mark Lowcock, who added that to leave the world’s poorest and most vulnerable countries to their fate would be both cruel and unwise. He said if the virus is allowed to spread freely in these places, millions of people would be at high risk, and whole regions will be tipped into chaos while the virus will have the opportunity to circle back around the globe.

“Our priority is to help these countries prepare and continue helping the millions who rely on humanitarian assistance from the UN to survive. “Properly funded, our global response effort will equip humanitarian organisations with the tools to fight the virus, save lives and help contain the spread of COVID-19 worldwide,” he said.

At the moment, Lesotho has not recorded any confirmed COVID-19 infection; the National Emergency Command Centre (NECC) recently informed the public that the eight suspected cases of the disease in the country whose samples were taken to South Africa for testing all tested negative. The Minister of Health, Nkaku Kabi, revealed that they were still awaiting results of other two suspects whose history reveals they came from the South Africa’s Kwa-Zulu Natal Province – inclusive of the results of one deceased person.

Kabi added that the World Health Organisation has pledged to assist Lesotho set up its own fully-fledged testing facility to fast track investigations and run its test with ease. As of Friday, the virus had killed around 47 250 people worldwide with 937 567 confirmed cases. A total of 194 311 patients have recovered from the pandemic. In the neighbouring South Africa, five people have since died from the disease while 1 380 cases have been reported.

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