By: T’soloane  Mohlomi

World Vision Lesotho recently held an awards ceremony at Lehakoe Recreational Centre to celebrate the winning journalists in their media engagement in child protection and justice for children in Lesotho competition.

The competition was held in order to assist in advocating for the protection of rights for children in Lesotho and was focused on three thematic areas which were namely: trafficking in persons, child hunger and malnutrition while also aiming to combat and address child online sex exploitation.

Some of the winners on the day firstly in the category of online publishing were Mr Khosi Pheko from the Weekly Observer online newspaper, Ms ‘Mabeleme Mokete from the Lesotho Tribune newspaper, various others were awarded in the print and radio space.

Speaking at the event Her Majesty Queen ‘Masenate Mohato Bereng Seeiso said under the auspices and in celebration of World Children’s Day, it was of outmost importance to highlight the ever so important needs of the most vulnerable people in society which were indeed the marginalized and disadvantaged children who were in danger of being victims of human trafficking and suffering from malnutrition.

“Ladies and gentlemen it gives me so much pleasure to be here today as we honour and celebrate this very vulnerable group of people in our society, who are yet so close to my heart, which is our children under the theme ‘For every child every right’.

“In my capacity as champion for children in Lesotho it gives me so much pleasure to bear witness to gatherings like this one, which seek to advocate for our children’s protection, rights and well-being.

“The challenges faced by our children particularly in Lesotho are deeply concerning and numerous. The conversions of factors such as climate change, food insecurity, and the persistent threat of HIV and Aids and Covid-19, have acerbated an already critical issue which is malnutrition.

“Our children particularly the vulnerable among them bear the brunt of these challenges the most.  This is because they face the grim reality of inadequate access to food every day, making them easy targets for the despicable crime of trafficking in persons. This heinous act not only strips away their innocence but inflicts lasting physical and mental scars which affect their future,” she said.

“Trafficked children suffer from malnutrition, infections, and are denied the basic human right of health care. Distinguished guests ladies and gentlemen, as we gather here to commemorate World Children’s day I am deeply moved by the achievements made this far, among others the celebration of the convention of the rights of the child, a testament to the enduring spirit of our young change makers.

“As World Vision Champion in child protection, this day holds immeasurable significance embodying the corner stone of our collective commitment to children’s rights and their empowerment. World Children’s Day 2023 embodies the call for every child every right, a call to provide an unwavering commitment to safeguard the right of every child as to contribute towards ending violence against children in line with Sustainable Development Goal 16 (SDG 16).

“Ladies and gentlemen you will agree that this call signifies more than just a theme, but it is a guiding principle urging us all to listen, learn and act in line with the aspirations of our children. Their voices today call for rigorous efforts in addressing the ripple effects of climate change in, their tender plea of # Enough against Hunger and Malnutrition.”

On his part UNICEF Lesotho country director Mr Kimanzi Muthengi said as the two areas among the three of World Vision Lesotho’s priorities were in line with their priorities of the wellbeing of children at an early age so as to ensure them a better adulthood where they are healthy and well developed.

He said child online sexual exploitation was a relatively new phenomenon, whereby children who own and have access to electronic devices the most affected.

“I’m honoured to be part of this momentous occasion commemorating the rights of children particularly on World Children’s Day. It’s not just about showing up or delivering a speech but joining the collective voice in advocating for the protection and realisation of children’s rights. We all recognized that world Children’s Day is celebrated on Saturdays but this year the theme being ‘Every child, every right’ indeed we did celebrate with the Minister this past Saturday in Pitseng on November 18 where children of different backgrounds including those with disabilities engaged in a dialogue concerning their rights.

“Your Majesty this year World Vision has identified three critical areas of child protection that concern us which are namely; ending child hunger and malnutrition. When young children are not adequately nourished and provided with the right food at the right time they are indeed at the risk of malnutrition and stunted growth. Unfortunately we are currently facing a concerning issue where 34% of children in Lesotho are experiencing stunted growth as a result of this problem.

“This affecting both their physiological and psychological development as well as learning abilities at the most critical time of learning which is called the early childhood window”, he said.   

Mr Kimanzi further added that youngsters faced similar challenges such as unhealthy eating habits leading to things such as obesity which was reported to be most prevalent in girls at a percentage of 24% in 2016.