MASERU – Studies show that there are more than 200,000 orphans in Lesotho, a staggering figure given the country’s population of slightly over two million. Children who grow up without their parents are more prone to a wide range of risks since many of them head households at an early age and when their age-mates are attending school they either have to work or beg in order to survive. Thankfully, in Lesotho a number of programmes aiming to protect the rights of these children have been implemented focusing on educational assistance, home-based care, food security initiatives and psychological support.
In an interview with Public Eye this week, Ministry of Social Development Department of Social Development Information Officer Mpho Makhetha said the mandate of the department of social development regarding all the children is to offer care, protection and support. Makhetha said, however, there are other services offered by the department for vulnerable children, mostly abandoned children. Such children, she said, need support of families but many end up living in the care facilities.
She said therefore interventions of services offered to care facilities include a subvention to the care facility which is determined by the number of children in the care facility to meet basic needs such as food and clothing. She added that the ministry also provides technical support, on issues of training on care and support of children which include care of children on counselling, psycho-social support, profiling of children, family tracing and financial literacy on record keeping, to mention a few.
Makhetha added that the ministry also provides medical exemption and, through the department of community development in the ministry, there is a provision for training on livelihoods projects for the sustainability of the care facilities on other issues. On the other hand, Pelaelo Phafoli, Accountant at Tholoana ea Lerato care facility said the facility was established in 1979 and has been running since then.
She said they offer accommodation and care for the children, as well as education by taking them to school, in addition to providing psychosocial support. They take children from three years to 11 years of age and the centre has a total of 31 inmates. Phafoli, however, said some of them come with their siblings at a younger age therefore they cannot separate them.
She further added that there are also challenges in the journey, which include taking care of many children with different needs. She noted that even the food that they buy tends to last them for fewer days due to the large number of children. Among other challenges involved in running such an institution, she said, includes cases of unruly behaviour, especially among children of an older age.
“To those who are now behaving in an unusual way, we have a social worker who assists those children in their problems and sometimes we even ask LMPS and LDF officials to come and talk to these children. We also have a problem of space therefore we have the children sharing beds.
“To keep going, we also have of houses that we rent out to other people so we are able to buy food and other items with the money to keep us going. We also do live off donations from donors once in a while,” she said. As a way of assisting and bringing back to the community, on October 13, Revenue Services Lesotho (RSL) donated food parcels, cosmetics and school shoes to Tholoana ea Lerato care facility which was also part of celebrating the tax authority’s 20th anniversary.
Some care facilities in Lesotho include SOS Children’s Village, Beautiful Gate Lesotho, Semonkong Children’s Centre, as well as Malibuseng Orphanage, to mention a few.