By: Mpho Shelile

Maseru – In a significant step towards improving the lives of children and strengthening social services in Lesotho, the European Union (EU) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) are providing the Ministry of Gender, Youth, and Social Development with two new vehicles, 10 laptops, and 20 tablets to support (Ntlafatsa Bana)-Improvement for Children at Kick for Life grounds.

This handover aims to address critical challenges faced by children in the country, particularly in areas such as nutrition, health, education, and social protection.

The EU is commits to providing significant financial assistance, which will be used for various programs aimed at improving the well-being of children. UNICEF is contributing technical expertise and on-ground support to ensure the successful implementation of these programs.

The joint efforts are focusing on creating sustainable solutions for the long-term benefit of children and communities in Lesotho.

The collaboration between the EU, UNICEF, and the government of Lesotho is expected to lead to substantial improvements in the well-being of children.

By addressing the root causes of poverty and inequality, the initiative aims to create a safer, healthier, and more supportive environment for Basotho children to thrive.

During the handover initiative, H.E. Paola Amadei, the EU Head of Delegation Lesotho, emphasizes the importance of investing in the future of Lesotho’s children.

She stresses that this initiative represents a significant milestone in their ongoing commitment to the welfare and development of the most vulnerable citizens, particularly children under five living in beneficiary households.

“Since 2005, the EU has supported social protection in Lesotho, aiming to improve the lives of those in need. In partnership with UNICEF, the Child Grant Programme and the National Information System on Social Assistance (NISSA) have been created to ensure the well-being of children over the years,” she explains.

Paola emphasizes that the EU’s commitment to Basotho children goes beyond the social protection program.

“Through a program implemented by World Vision, Lesotho’s children’s court infrastructures have been developed to provide adequate spaces for children when they appear in court as victims, witnesses, or accused,” she states.  

The EU’s most recent program, Metsi a Lesotho, provides access to clean water and sanitation services in underserved communities. It particularly focuses on 125 schools across the ten districts of Lesotho, in partnership with UNICEF.

The tools being handed over today are crucial for the implementation and sustainability of the program. Laptops and tablets expedite the process of digital payments and database updates. The vehicles enhance the Ministry’s capacity to oversee this process more effectively.

Amadei concludes by stating that through collaboration with stakeholders at all levels, they can ensure that their efforts are truly sustainable and transformative for a more inclusive and equitable society. “As we embark on this journey, let us remain steadfast in our commitment to leaving no child behind and forging a path towards a better future for all,” Paola declares.

Hon. Pitso Lesaoana, Minister of Gender, Youth, Sports, Arts, Culture, and Social Development, expresses gratitude to the EU and UNICEF for their continued support to the people of Lesotho. He notes that their collaboration began in 2009 during a challenging period when Lesotho grappled with poverty, HIV/AIDS, and vulnerable orphaned children.

The new initiative, Ntlafatsa-Bana, comes at a crucial time as they implement the National Social Protection Strategy, focusing on addressing child poverty to improve child nutrition and access to essential services.

Hon. Lesaoana emphasizes that this support will strengthen the effective implementation of their work and improve service delivery. He urges everyone using these resources to ensure their safety and protection

Deepak Bhaskaran, the representative of UNICEF Lesotho, emphasizes the crucial role of collaboration in achieving goals related to children’s welfare. He highlights that partnerships are essential in addressing the various challenges affecting children.

Alongside the EU and the government of Lesotho, they are committed to making a lasting impact on the lives of children and their families.

Deepak outlines the four phases of the project, which started in 2007 and the  new one which began in 2023 and will continue until 2026 phase named ‘Equitable Lesotho, Ntlafatsa Bana.

During this phase, the focus is on scaling up cash grant payments through digital means, enhancing access to social services such as clean water, and implementing community-based nutrition interventions for young children.

He expresses deepest gratitude to the European Union for their investment in the social protection program and thanks the Ministry for their unwavering commitment to sustaining this partnership, which has significantly contributed to improving the well-being of children.

This initiative signifies a significant milestone in efforts to improve child well-being and social services in Lesotho. With the combined resources and expertise of the EU, UNICEF, and the government, there is renewed hope for a brighter future for the children of Lesotho.