Help Lesotho continues to adapt to the changing COVID-19 landscape. As of September 2020, we are delivering programs that allow for physical distancing and that comply with current Lesotho government regulations for gatherings. Staff and participants wear masks and practice good hand hygiene. All programs now include COVID-19 education and opportunities for participants to ask questions and clarify myths. Many vulnerable people have little access to information which can lead to increased anticipatory anxiety in such a crisis. Providing clear information and strategies for managing stress is proving to be a highly impactful COVID-19 prevention strategy. Our staff continue to provide psychosocial support to beneficiaries regarding the many challenges they face, some related to the COVID-19 pandemic, others the result of the ongoing HIV/AIDS pandemic and the extremely high rate of gender-based violence entrenched in the country.
Caring4Caregivers Campaign Update:
The Caring4Caregivers campaign was launched to provide relief to already vulnerable families in Lesotho were struggling to meet their most basic needs. Because of the incredible response from the Help Lesotho community, 1,230 families – over 5,000 people – received the most substantial relief packages Help Lesotho has ever distributed.
The procurement and distribution to remote villages was a massive undertaking, but we are proud that the comment we heard over and over again from community leaders and village chiefs was ‘Thank you for doing this right. You reached the people who need this support more than anyone else. The package contained the items that were truly needed [rather than things that were easy to get and give]’.
“Hi, I am Makheleli, a proud Help Lesotho participant of the young mothers’ program. Proud because I feel blessed to have experienced this indescribable opportunity. I got a call from our program officer a few weeks ago amidst the lockdown due to the covid-19 pandemic. It was a calming conversation where she only contacted me to know how my family and I were doing and we discussed coronavirus in depth so I could understand it better. I felt relieved and relaxed to the extent that I found myself sharing with her my challenges. The only income we had was from my husband’s piece jobs in fixing cars, but it has been difficult coping since we have no income whatsoever during this hard time. I am 24 and got married in 2017. I live with my parents-in-law, brother-in-law, my husband and our 1 year and 8 months old baby girl.
A few days ago I got another call and the program officer informed me to come receive a food package consisting of maize meal, soap, sugar beans, sugar, cooking oil, split peas, green lentils, salt, matches, candles, Vaseline, paraffin, oranges, apples, airtime, a mask and sanitary kit. I could not contain my excitement nor wait to get home and share with my family the grace that had fell upon us. I wholeheartedly appreciate the mercy Help Lesotho has shown us. I am capacitated not only with tangible items but information that helps my sanity and health stability.
Though we missed some of the monthly trainings during the lockdown, I treasure the discussions we had that built me into the woman I am inspired to become. Thank you Help Lesotho!”
August 21, 2020:
|Lesotho was one of the last countries in the world to get their first positive COVID-19 test. Sadly, the rate of infection is climbing steadily and there are now over 1,000 confirmed cases in the country. Testing numbers are still low however the rate of positive tests of those who get tested is shockingly high at between 7-10%. The country has introduced a prevention and response strategy that restricts gathering sizes and duration, but businesses (and NGOs!) are allowed to operate (unlike during the earlier lockdown). Today the government announced that schools will reopen for specific grades in the coming weeks.
Help Lesotho’s staff are providing support to help people cope with the anticipatory anxiety that many are feeling. We continue to provide COVID-19 related education at all possible opportunities. UNICEF recently provided funding for us to create and print a booklet for young mothers to help them make the best choices they can during pregnancy, breastfeeding, and caring for young children.
|At Help Lesotho, we are doing our best to resume programming that meets the government’s guidelines. It is far from ideal, but our staff and beneficiaries understand the need to protect one another while continuing to build skills for a brighter future.
July 20, 2020:
Lesotho has re-entered a country-wide lock-down after reporting nearly 400 coronavirus cases. Health officials have confirmed there is community spreading, and is urging Basotho to avoid any sort of gatherings (including weddings and funerals), and prohibiting unnecessary movements across districts (except emergencies). The borders between Lesotho and South Africa are now closed.
In order to keep one another safe, it’s imperative to wash your hands, wear a mask and abide by social-distancing rules.
April 22, 2020:
Lesotho’s first lock-down lasted from March 29 to May 6. And was originally lifted after reporting zero cases of the virus. In April, the country able to set up its own testing facility (previously all tests needed to be sent to South Africa).
Basotho are terrified, burdened with the still open wounds from the horrors of the AIDS pandemic. Among the salient factors are: inadequate national health services, small crowded homes, loss of jobs in an abject poverty context, increases in isolation, domestic violence, and sex-trade activities for girls and women who cannot feed themselves or their children, virus myths and misinformation, and the fear of death of those with severely compromised immune systems.
Our work over the last 16 years has rebuilt hundreds of rural community support networks for our youth, grandmothers, young mothers and herd boys to replace those fractured or completely destroyed by death, fear and discrimination from the HIV/AIDS pandemic since in the 1990’s. During this time of uncertainty, we are developing alternative plans to continue to bolster these community networks so they are strengthened rather than diminished by this new virus threat.
- Help Lesotho staff are disseminating factual information about the virus, clarifying protective measures of social distancing, hand-washing, and strategies to help citizens keep their immune systems strong;
- staff also developed an COVID-19 information sheet in Sesotho;
- our two community centres are now closed to limit exposure from congregating;
- staff are united and committed to exploring innovative ways to keep in touch with their participants;
- our Country Director, Shadrack, has evacuated to Kenya to be with his family, and works from home there. Supervisors are working remotely while still supporting their staff, tracking issues and beneficiary contacts, identifying patterns, etc.;
- Lesotho staff continue their weekly meetings on Tuesdays via Skype to remain focused, motivated and in close contact. They will have access to real-time information to disseminate to beneficiaries;
- before the lockdown, food parcels were delivered to our grandmothers in Berea and Pitseng;
- we have operationalized a communications plan and support materials through which our program staff are reaching out to deliver psychosocial support to strengthen the hundreds of village support networks we have developed over the last decade;
- we have enhanced mechanisms to provide staff with airtime to hotspot their computers as none have internet at home to work remotely;
- we have set up WhatsApp groups of thousands of beneficiaries for positive messaging, information sharing and crisis management;
- we’ve worked to refresh our beneficiary database of 3,000+ cell phone contacts, identifying the most vulnerable in each program group for priority contacting and schedules of contacts by phone, text, etc. These are adapted to those who have smart phones, non-smart phones (no apps) and those who have no phones, radios or other forms of information or who are illiterate. The latter group includes many of our grandmothers. For these individuals, we will try to reach their relatives;
- developed and operationalized messaging for staff to manage these communications, including phone scripts, Q&As on the virus, strategies for handling stress, fear, depression, communicating with children, and domestic communications under stress. We are identifying those households that may be perilous for girls and women as domestic violence tends to increase under stress; and
- all staff have been sent home with large quantities of COVID-19 information sheets, one pagers on various issues (human trafficking, HIV/AIDS, anger management, communication, decision making, peer pressure, etc.), our booklets on pre-and post-natal care, sexual and reproductive health, etc. We have printed thousands of copies and each staff will use them as references and will distribute them (while practicing social distancing). The guard houses at each Centre have copies to freely give out; and
- Canadian staff are all working remotely, where we continue to adapt and support from our homes.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
- Help us with our cash flow: After building up this organization from nothing, we want to preserve and support our highly trained staff over this difficult period, who have no government support benefits such as unemployment insurance or government bailouts. If you can help us continue to keep paying our local staff and keeping the lights on, it would be most appreciated. Of course, all our budgeted spring fundraising events and plans are now aborted. We appreciate a one-time donation but if you feel you can start a monthly donation, this will give us the predictable revenue needed to enable us to continue planning our interventions for the immediate and long term periods.
- Encourage our staff and beneficiaries: If you would like to write a note of appreciate or support to our beneficiaries and/or staff, please do – it would mean the world to them. You can send that to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will distribute.
Thank you for your continued support!I