By Kefiloe Kajane
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the ministry of development planning hosted a two-day annual review meeting with implementing partners this week.
The implementing partners, who participated virtually in the meeting included ministry of health, ministry of education and training, Lesotho Red Cross Society, World Vision, Lesotho Planned Parenthood Association, Gender Links, Help Lesotho and LENEPWA.
Speaking at the meeting, UNFPA regional director for East and Southern Africa Julitta Onabanjo briefed the meeting on UNFPA global corporate priorities, what are happening at regional level and what can be done better to raise the bar on the partnership for the development and prosperity of the Basotho people.
She expressed solidarity with the government of Lesotho for lives lost due to Covid-19 saying, “We are commiserating with the Government of the Kingdom of Lesotho for the lives lost and illnesses due to Covid-19 as well as disruptions on the economy and progress on the reforms.
“We join in solidarity as we acknowledge the suffering but also the good efforts the country has made such as the vaccine roll out which is impressive and we encourage expansion of the vaccination coverage for especially the front line health workers and those most vulnerable.
“I applaud Lesotho for its participation in the Nairobi Summit on ICPD25 stating that it was an opportunity to recommit to the unfinished agenda of rights and choices and also to frame that within the sustainable development goals and a decade of action that is needed to ensure that the world including member states move forward on that development vision.
“We appreciate the Lesotho delegation to the Nairobi summit; Queen ‘Masenate Mohato Seeiso was excellent and one of the two royals that were there. She was dynamic in what she presented and her engagement. We were really humbled,” Onabanjoe said.
On the young people of Lesotho, she said they came and they were the first to actually put forward a national youth commitment to the summit.
“We continue to take pride in what they said and how forward looking, how advanced they are committed and the accountability and responsibility they took on themselves.
“I would like to express concern at the maternal mortality rate in Lesotho (618/100 000 live births). I worry about what we see in terms of figures on ending preventable maternal deaths in Lesotho, which remains for us a country with the highest maternal mortality rate in Southern Africa, and the pace of decline is in no way what we need to be able to reach the Sustainable Development Goal 3.1 (to reduce global maternal mortality to less than 70 per 100,000 live births).
“So in Lesotho you cannot achieve economic growth or sustainable development if you continue to lose those lives of women due to complications of pregnancy and child birth,” she warned.
Speaking at the same forum, UNFPA Representative to Lesotho Dr Marc Derveeuw recognized all the good work done by all the implementing partners in particular the ministry of development planning for assisting and strengthening UNFPA programmes and fulfilling its mandate in a continuous way especially because 2020 was not a normal year.
“We were able to step up our budgets and the amount of funds we gave to the ministry of health enabled them to free more funds to addressing issues related to Covid-19.
“We were also able to step up our programmes to addressing gender based violence drawing attention initially to violence happening at border posts when young women were coming back from South Africa trying to cross legally and sometimes illegally,” he concluded.