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Tuesday:  November 25, 2014

When Will Chile's Post Office's Re-open? 

(PHOTO: Workers set up camp at Santiago's Rio Mapocho/Mason Bryan, The Santiago Times)Chile nears 1 month without mail service as postal worker protests continue. This week local branches of the 5 unions representing Correos de Chile voted on whether to continue their strike into a 2nd month, rejecting the union's offer. For a week the workers have set up camp on the banks of Santiago's Río Mapocho displaying banners outlining their demands; framing the issue as a division of the rich & the poor. The strike’s main slogan? “Si tocan a uno, nos tocan a todos,” it reads - if it affects 1 of us, it affects all of us. (Read more at The Santiago Times)

WHO convenes emergency talks on MERS virus

 

(PHOTO: Saudi men walk to the King Fahad hospital in the city of Hofuf, east of the capital Riyadh on June 16, 2013/Fayez Nureldine)The World Health Organization announced Friday it had convened emergency talks on the enigmatic, deadly MERS virus, which is striking hardest in Saudi Arabia. The move comes amid concern about the potential impact of October's Islamic hajj pilgrimage, when millions of people from around the globe will head to & from Saudi Arabia.  WHO health security chief Keiji Fukuda said the MERS meeting would take place Tuesday as a telephone conference & he  told reporters it was a "proactive move".  The meeting could decide whether to label MERS an international health emergency, he added.  The first recorded MERS death was in June 2012 in Saudi Arabia & the number of infections has ticked up, with almost 20 per month in April, May & June taking it to 79.  (Read more at Xinhua)

LINKS TO OTHER STORIES

                                

Dreams and nightmares - Chinese leaders have come to realize the country should become a great paladin of the free market & democracy & embrace them strongly, just as the West is rejecting them because it's realizing they're backfiring. This is the "Chinese Dream" - working better than the American dream.  Or is it just too fanciful?  By Francesco Sisci

Baby step towards democracy in Myanmar  - While the sweeping wins Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy has projected in Sunday's by-elections haven't been confirmed, it is certain that the surging grassroots support on display has put Myanmar's military-backed ruling party on notice. By Brian McCartan

The South: Busy at the polls - South Korea's parliamentary polls will indicate how potent a national backlash is against President Lee Myung-bak's conservatism, perceived cronyism & pro-conglomerate policies, while offering insight into December's presidential vote. Desire for change in the macho milieu of politics in Seoul can be seen in a proliferation of female candidates.  By Aidan Foster-Carter  

Pakistan climbs 'wind' league - Pakistan is turning to wind power to help ease its desperate shortage of energy,& the country could soon be among the world's top 20 producers. Workers & farmers, their land taken for the turbine towers, may be the last to benefit.  By Zofeen Ebrahim

Turkey cuts Iran oil imports - Turkey is to slash its Iranian oil imports as it seeks exemptions from United States penalties linked to sanctions against Tehran. Less noticed, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the Iranian capital last week, signed deals aimed at doubling trade between the two countries.  By Robert M. Cutler

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Entries in Lesotho (12)

Saturday
Jan012011

HUMNEWS Person of the Year: Orphan Sephora in Lesotho

(HN, January 1, 2011) - Sephora celebrated New Years Day today the same way she observed it ever since she lost her mother five years ago - cleaning the small house she shares with her grandmother in a remote village in Lesotho.The HIV epidemic in Lesotho has hit children disproportionately hard. CREDIT: HUMNEWS

Sephora is known to aid agencies and statisticians as a "double orphan." She lost both parents to AIDS, giving her unenviable membership in the orphan community in this impoverished southern African country - a neglected group now estimated to number between 270,000 and 400,000.

Like Sephora, almost half of all orphans in Lesotho do not live with either parent. Almost 20 percent of all orphans have lost both biological parents.

Most of the orphans in Lesotho come from families devastated by HIV AIDS. Lesotho has the third highest HIV AIDS rate in the world - with almost 30 percent of the adult population affected - according to the charitable organization Sentebale. It estimates that every day, 100 children in Lesotho are devastated by the death of a parent. With so few orphanages in the country only about one percent have access to institutionalized care.

An 'orphan' is defined by the United Nations as a child who has 'lost one or both parents'. Worldwide, it is estimated that more than 16 million children under 18 have been orphaned by AIDS. Around 14.8 million of these children live in sub-Saharan Africa, according to international HIV and AIDS charity AVERT.

Sadly, Sephora was born into a family with parents belonging to the highest risk groups: her father was a migrant miner in neighbouring South Africa and her mother was among the 40,000 people toiling away in Lesotho's garment factories.

Now at 14, Sephora does not attend school - she hasn't been inside a classroom for many years. Even when she was in school she was forced to repeat classes due to low marks and non-attendance. The stress of living in a troubled household made studying difficult. And even
though primary education in Lesotho is compulsory and free - there were weeks in winter time when Sephora didn't have shoes and stayed home. There were also days when teachers sent her home because she didn't have money for basic stationary items.

Sephora wasn't enrolled in Grade One until she was 10 years old - in fact about half of children I'm Lesotho start Grade One at six years old and above. Each year almost a quarter of all students must repeat classes and drop-out rates are extremely high. Only two percent of boys and eight percent of girls from the lowest wealth quintiles enroll in secondary school, which is not free.

Sephora's younger brother, Oscar, does attend school - one of the reasons is he receives a free meal at lunch paid for by the World Food Program (WFP). On some days, her hungry grandmother goes to the school yard to get a portion of Oscar's lunch. Sadly the school feeding program may be discontinued shortly due to funding shortages.

Sephora says she and her classmates have never touched a computer or surfed the Internet. There is a dire lack of good-quality textbooks and education on how to protect themselves from HIV/Aids and other dangerous diseases. A recent study of southern African countries funded by UNESCO pegged Lesotho's children as having the lowest knowledge of HIV and Aids prevention measures.

Indeed, Sephora had the odds stacked up against her well before she was born. With one of the highest HIV prevalence rates in the world her chances of either contracting the disease during birth or becoming infected as teenager was extremely high. The district of Leribe, where Sephora lives, has the highest prevalence rate in the country, at 30 percent. By the time she reaches 24, she could be among half of all women at that age that have been infected. And by the time she reaches
18 she will have probably reached middle age: life expectancy in Lesotho is just at around 40 years old.

According to UNICEF: "The nexus of significant levels of poverty, chronic food insecurity and a high prevalence of HIV has dealt a serious blow to child survival, development and protection in Lesotho."

When Sephora's parents were still alive they rarely sought health treatment for themselves or their children. Only 34 percent of poor households live within an hour of the nearest health facility. Even
those who do make it to a clinic are more likely than not to find a lack of medicines, poorly trained health care workers and few doctors. It is still unclear where doctors will be found to staff a multi-million dollar hospital in the capital Maseru.

Lesotho is a small mountainous country of 1.9 million people surrounded by South Africa. With about half of all households living in poverty, it has been mostly sidelined by the economic miracle happening across the border. When the 2010 World Cup was held in South Africa, many of Sephora's relatives were prevented from traveling to their jobs across the border due to a sudden border tightening imposed by the Government of Jacob Zuma.

So for Sephora - and the millions of other Aids orphans on the African continent, today will be just another day. Many will be asking, as they start a new decade, whether change will come quickly enough to bring them back into school before they become adults, to bring them at least one meal a day, and to save them from deadly diseases such as HIV/Aids.

Sephora represents the millions of children like her living with poverty, disease and inequity and is a character composed by HUMNEWS based on official statistics, mostly from the World Bank, and on interviews, other data collected by HUMNEWS and on real children we've met in Lesotho. She is HUMNEWS' person of note for 2010.
To help children in Lesotho such as Sephora, visit Sentebale and Catholic Relief Services (CRS). Both have substantial and well-regarded programmes for children impacted by HIV and Aids.

Lesotho is one of the 116 countries in the geographic gap covered exclusively by HUMNEWS.

Wednesday
Sep152010

South African World Cup Border Policy Turns Lesotho Into "Gaza of Africa"

A river divides some parts of Lesotho with South Africa(HN, September 15, 2010) -- Border controls imposed at South Africa's border posts with Lesotho during the World Cup are causing havoc with the small mountain kingdom's economy.

The situation has deteriorated to the point where one senior government official in Maseru said it has transformed the landlocked nation into "the Gaza of Africa" - equating it to a blockade by South Africa.

Last weekend HUMNEWS visited the main crossing between the two countries at the Maseru Bridge. Pedestrians and car drivers alike were reporting waits of up to 90 minutes Friday. However diplomats and expatriate business people say they have also experienced waits up to four hours to make a crossing that used to take just 5 minutes.

The costly bottleneck started in the run-up to the World Cup in June, when South Africa unilaterally slapped new conditions on Lesotho nationals. The change - reportedly demanded by FIFA amid reports of criminality originating from Lesotho - meant that passports needed to be produced for entry into South Africa instead of just six-month certificates that did not require time-consuming id scans.

During Friday's inspection, HUMNEWS calculated at least a one to two minute processing times per traveller. To make matters worse, the South Africans have only one pedestrian checkpoint in each direction and few vehicle booths.

For the expatriate community and for business people crossing back and forth on day trips, the delays translate into huge delays - and costs. One hotel manager who lives in Ladybrand - a popular border town on the South African side of the border - complained it has turned a commute that had taken just 30 minutes into a multi hour headache.

Commercial and private vehicles compete for space on the narrow border bridgePeople had hoped that the misery would be alleviated when South African President Jacob Zuma visited Lesotho last month on an official state visit. But according to published reports the issue was hardly raised, if at all. The Government of Lesotho has little leverage on its larger, wealthier neighbour as it relies on the latter for most of its food supply. 

It’s not only ordinary people and commuters being inconvenienced. Trucks laden with crucial imports are also stuck in long lines. On Friday the only vehicles that moved quickly were in a heavily guarded armoured vehicle convey carrying diamonds - a crucial export from Lesotho.

The border changes couldn't come at a worse time for Lesotho, one of the poorest nations in the world. The country of 2-million is struggling to deal with the impact of the global economy crisis - which has slowed the flow of foreign remittances and triggered at least 10,000 layoffs in the garment industry. One of Lesotho's main streams of income - revenue from the South African Customs Union - has been dropping, from 35% of GDP in 2009/10 to a meager 14% in 2010/11, according to the World Bank. Since 1990, an estimated 65,000 mining jobs based in South Africa have been lost.

The new controls are also hurting border businesses on the South African side. Lesotho national and expatriates who used to cross on weekend are cutting down on spontaneous cross-border shopping trips.

Diplomats have expressed concern about serious medical cases being tied up at the border due to the new controls. And business owners worry about the knock-on effect it will have on Lesotho's small but important tourism and convention business. There are frequent and convenient daily flights between Maseru and Johannesburg - operated and controlled by South African Airways - but flights tend to be expensive and fill-up quickly.

Expatriate workers say if the border chaos continues for much longer, it could make it harder to attract aid workers and consultants to the small nation. "Being able to crossing on a moment's notice into South Africa on weekends - even if just to walk our dogs - is one of the biggest benefits of working here," said one.

Part of the government's new economic policy is to transform Maseru into a dynamic economic node, integrated with the southern African regional economy. It also wants to link Lesotho small agribusiness into the high end of the South African value chain. But these goals now seem more distant than even with the ongoing border squeeze.

Said the World Bank in a report issued this year: "Inefficient customs procedures and processes on Lesotho's borders with South Africa hamper trade with this important neighbour."

---- Reporting by HUMNEWS in Maseru, Lesotho.  

Monday
Sep062010

Sudden and unusual crime wave shakes up Lesotho capital 

Maseru, Lesotho HUM file photo(HN, September 6, 2010) - In a sudden crime wave that has now claimed the lives of at least two people in one week and put Maseru's small expatriate community and locals alike on edge, questions are being raised on what’s behind the upsurge in violence in one of the safest capital cities in Africa.

Earlier today, gunshots rang out at the glitzy Pioneer shopping mall near the city centre in what local police described to HUMNEWS as an attempted robbery. The mall is frequented by middle class locals and foreigners alike and is regarded as one of the safest places in the city. Several prominent South African chains, such as the Pick n Pay supermarket, have outlets at the mall.

The incident happened around the same time that friends and co-workers of slain Thomas Maresco gathered to mourn the US Peace Corps volunteer at a special memorial at the US Peace Corps compound in Maseru. The 24-year old native of Port St. Lucie, FL was gunned-down Friday night near the compound as he was leaving the 4-star Maseru Sun hotel with a female colleague.(MAP: CIA World Factbook)

Although an investigation is still underway, reports are that an armed man stopped the two Americans as they were leaving the hotel property, and unprovoked, fatally shot the US Peace Corps volunteer in the head. The unidentified woman escaped unharmed.

The attack on Maresco occurred just two days after a suspected attempted robbery on another foreign aid worker. Police say three male adults approached a former UN volunteer near the Khali Hotel in Maseru. While she was walking towards the main road, they threatened her with a knife on her neck and forcefully took her handbag. She escaped unharmed, and two suspects were later arrested and one is still at large.

What has surprised locals and expatriates alike is that the areas where all the recent attacks took place are considered very safe. Overall Lesotho, a country the size of Belgium that is entirely land-locked by South Africa, is ranked as one of the safest countries in sub-Saharan Africa - so much so that the United Nations has no security phase in place.

It’s not only locals that have been targeted in the recent violent crime wave. Police said a Maseru resident in his 40s was shot dead in the past week while driving his car into his gated driveway.

One of the most high profile crimes occurred way back In April 2009, in an assassination attempt on the Prime Minister by attackers apparently planning to seize power. The Prime Minister survived but such acts tend to cause worry in neighbouring South Africa because of the possibility of a spill-over or because unrest could disrupt crucial supplies of water and electricity from Lesotho.

In the case of Mareso, no arrests have yet been made. A Peace Corps statement says he taught secondary education in the impoverished, highlands district of Thaba-Tseka since November 2009. Maresco was scheduled to serve until January 2012.

In today’s shooting at Pioneer Mall, the Maseru police said they had their eye on a suspect who has targeted the ATM at the mall “several times” but he has not yet been apprehended by authorities. Pioneer Mall Maseru, Lesotho HUM file photo

While there is no evidence to suggest all the recent attacks are linked, Lesotho-watchers say increasing desperation among young working-age males could be a factor behind the sudden crime wave. Ever since the borders with South Africa were abruptly tightened on the eve of the World Cup in June, many people who had cross-border jobs are stranded. As it is, Lesotho is one of the poorest countries on the planet, and with one of the most unequal wealth distribution rankings.

The unemployment rate is at more than 20% and aid agencies are planning to assist about 450,000 people - about a quarter of the total population - with humanitarian assistance this year and next.

By Cristina Khalaf, staff files

Saturday
Jul312010

(PERSPECTIVE) “MY STORY”

---By Gertrude Kitongo

My name is Gertrude Kitongo. I am one of the 10% international students at the CIDA (Community and Individual Development Association) City Campus in Johannesburg. I am Kenyan born and raised, but my father is Ugandan. I first heard about CIDA when I visited my aunt in South Africa.

I finished my high school - or what we call form 6 - in 2006. That year my father had lost his job and my mother became really ill from stress related illnesses. They asked me to drop out of school because there was not enough money to send all of us to school, and when I could go, I was constantly being sent back because of school fee debts.

To help raise cash, I decided to do petty jobs like babysitting. I also studied late at night but prayed even more that I could save up enough to be able to register for the final exam. It was all I lived for at the time. Imagine, as a young person being stuck at home, and seeing everyone else leave to go about their business - leaving you in the house to cater to household chores. It broke my heart and I promised never to put myself - or anyone else - in that situation ever again.

Around this time I lost all sense of self confidence: I gave up on myself and left my hair in a mess, and just didn’t care about how I looked. After all, I was now a perfect description of a house girl. Aunty Winnie heard about how miserable I was and she invited me to come visit her for a month. She got a free ticket to come back to Uganda for the holidays but instead sent it to me to visit her.

She so desperately wanted to send me to school or help out in any way - but the financial demon always awoke when I needed to pay for registration. Irregardless of my good grades, there was no way I could be admitted to any place without paying the horrific large amounts of registration fees.

One day, on our way back home, we passed the CIDA CITY CAMPUS (CCC). My aunt asked me to walk in and make some inquiries. I did and luckily enough, the security guard took us in to the 5th floor and we got application forms. We knew this was honestly our last resort.

Two weeks later, a Mr. Gitonga - the campus registrar - called to inform me that I'd been admitted to the campus but I had to do the pre-university work. I did not care about that. All I knew is that I had been given a chance to something I would never have dreamt of. This was and will always be the happiest day of my life because it meant that I had a chance to make something of myself.

CIDA is an amazing place to be. All of us are from previously disadvantaged families and this makes it very easy for us to relate with each other. The spirit of UBUNTU here is so real and even though I haven’t been back home since December 2007 I often forget the pain because of the love and unity shown here. This place is more than I ever bargained for, awesome people, awesome country, and an awesome campus. I intend to graduate in majoring in Marketing and Human resources. My long term vision is to start CIDA East Africa and likewise help people who are academically deserving but their situations do not allow them access to further their education.

CIDA City Campus (CIDA), based in Johannesburg, is the first virtually free higher education institution in South Africa, offering holistic education to historically disadvantaged youth who would not otherwise be able to access higher education. With the cost of higher education in South Africa spiraling out of control, CIDA has emerged as the abiding hope for underprivileged students who have a desire to pursue a university level education. The university is driven to develop the infinite potential of every student regardless of his or her background. Oprah Winfrey and Sir Richard Branson are both major funding supporters of CIDA through the CIDA Foundation and the university has been visited and praised by many luminaries including entrepreneur Russell Simmons, the Dalai Lama, and Nelson Mandela.

Please follow the developments at CIDA on their website at: http://www.cida.co.za/

--the author is a student at CIDA City Campus in Johannesburg, South Africa writing for HUMNEWS.

SCHOOL FEES IN AFRICA: Many African children cannot attend school due to onerous fees (PHOTO: HN, 2010, Michael Bociurkiw)

The elimination of school fees is a perquisite for education systems to become inclusive, equitable and sustainable. However policies across Africa range widely - from zero fees in Lesotho to heavy fees in Swaziland.

“School fees are keeping children out of the classroom, and many of these are the most vulnerable children in our societies,” said Dr. Cream Wright, UNICEF Education Chief. “Fees consume nearly a quarter of a poor family’s income in Sub-Saharan Africa, paying not only for tuition, but also indirect fees such as PTA and community contributions, textbook fees, compulsory uniforms and other charges. The increasing numbers of orphans and vulnerable children, including those affected by HIV/AIDS or trapped in domestic labour, makes it imperative to abolish fees.”

UNICEF says eliminating fees leads to a surge in enrollment: In Tanzania in 2001, primary school enrollment grew by 50%, from 4.4 million in 2002 to 6.6 million in 2003. In Kenya in 2003, enrollment grew from 6 million to 7.2 million in a matter of weeks.

Survey of School Fee Policies in Selected African Countries

Lesotho

The Government of Lesotho introduced Free Primary Education (FPE) in 2000. This policy has been implemented progressively by removing fees in phases from Grade 1 in 2000 to Grade 7 in 2006

Nigeria

Under the National Policy on Education, free basic education - including six years of primary education and three years of junior secondary school education - is compulsory.

Rwanda

The Government has implemented a policy of free primary education in which school fees have been abolished and replaced by a capitation grant, which increased to 2,500FRw (USD 4.50) in 2006. Shortfalls in financing at the school level nevertheless persist, with parents typically being asked to contribute to finance this gap. Non-fee barriers remain, such as school uniforms and learning materials, and these affect access to education. Rwanda also provides three years of free post-primary education, where students undertake a common-core syllabus, according to the Ministry of Education.

Swaziland

Universal Primary Education (UPE) is a priority of the Swaziland National Education Policy. Free primary education was to have been instituted last year. In Swaziland 16 percent of children are not receiving an education, according to UNICEF.  School fees range from E2000 a year to E10,000 and often much more (the average daily income in Swaziland is about E6)

Saturday
Jul102010

Using Soccer to Fight HIV in Lesotho

(HN, July 10, 2010) Maseru, Lesotho -- In 2005 brothers Steve and Pete Fleming of the United Kingdom founded Kick4Life, a non-profit organization focused on tackling HIV/AIDS in Lesotho in southern Africa. 

They could not have selected a more needy country: Lesotho has the third highest HIV prevalence in the world - about a quarter of the population is infected - and hundreds and thousands of children have been orphaned by the disease. Out of a population of 1.9 million, there are an estimated 64 new HIV infections and 50 deaths due to AIDS each day. Kick4Life is committed to playing and important role in addressing this crisis. Kick4Life co-founder Pete Fleming. (PHOTO: MBociurkiw, HN, 2010)

Using football and sport to inspire, unite and make a difference by providing sports-based health education, voluntary testing, life-skills development and support into education and employment. 

Kick4Life has two main projects that it focuses on: National HIV Prevention and Testing Programme which includes the K4L Curriculum to youth across Lesotho. If focuses on heath education, HIV prevention and life-skills development. It also incorporates the award-winning Test Your Team Campaign – a series of one day football tournaments where HIV education and HIV testing is provided on site. Teams earn tournament points for completing HIV educational sessions, getting HIV tested, and for winning matches. 

In the last three years some 8,000 children have been tested, Pete Fleming told HUMNEWS in an interview. Most would have been tested for the very fist time.

The second project is the Orphan and Vulnerable Children (OVC) Initiative focused on supporting extremely disadvantaged youth who are living on the streets of Maseru, Lesotho’s capital city. It included the Maseru Street League, mentoring and Fit4Work - a training course offered to orphans and vulnerable children who have completed high school. The aim of the programme is to equip young people with the skills to continue into further education, training or employment. 

Pete - who has a degree in sport science - says that since its inception about 25,000 children have gone through a 12-hour education programme. "For the testing events we use football as the hook," says Fleming. "We arrange one-day football tournaments with interactive education focused on the importance of getting tested. We have trained up the national football team to deliver the curriculum to the youth. It's a tremendous tool to have."

 (A short video introduction to Lesotho.)

In addition to the work Kick4Life does they also play an active part in several international networks including Football for Hope, a global streetfootballworld and FIFA movement.  

Funding for Kick4Life comes from a variety of sources, including UNICEF, the Vodafone Foundation, Sentebale and the English Premier League. 

Some high-profile supporters have endowed Kick4Life with valuable publicity: in 2008, England coach Fabio Capello attended a testing event in Lesotho which was widely covered by the media. Kick4Life employs 15 people full-time and is backed by a network of 300 volunteers nationwide.

"We've been amazed by the volunteer ethic here in Lesotho," Fleming said, adding that most young people are educated but can't find jobs.

As a result of its achievements, Kick4Life was selected to host a sports health and education center as part of the official World Cup Campaign, 20 Centers for 2010. 

The aim of the 20 Centers for 2010 campaign is to create twenty Football for Hope Centers in disadvantaged communities across Africa as a legacy of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Each centre provides underprivileged communities with public health, education and football facilities.

The centre in Maseru, Lesotho will be located in the Police Training Grounds of Old Europa in Maseru and will help young people address social challenges such as HIV/AIDS awareness, education and testing; essential life skills; personal development and work training. The site of the new Kick4Life soccer pitch in Maseru. (PHOTO: MBociurkiw, HN, 2010)

At the moment, the field resembles an old soccer pitch but planned upgrades will transform the site into an incredible sports facility for children.

Kick4Life co-founder Peter Fleming says, “Being selected as a Centre Host as part of the official World Cup campaign is a fantastic development for Kick4Life that will provide a first-class- sports, health and education facility right in the heart of Maseru, Lesotho’s capital. It will enable us to deliver activities to thousands of orphans and vulnerable children in an aspirational setting, and become, we hope, a centre of excellence for the use of football as a tool for social development.”

Construction is due to begin in September 2010, with completion set for March 2011.

--- Reporting by HUMNEWS' Michael Bociurkiw, from Maseru, Lesotho.

Thursday
Jul082010

While Prosperous South Africa Cheers, Impoverished Lesotho – Next Door - Weeps

(HN, July 8, 2010) - Bole Makeka stands by her souvenir stand near Maseru’s newly-renovated stadium and waits - and waits and waits and waits. There are few customers in sight to purchase any of her t-shirts with World Cup team logos.

Asked how sales are going, Bole, who is hopelessly poor and uses an abandoned van to prop up her wares, shrugs her shoulders and displays empty hands.

One of the least-developed nations in the world, the land-locked kingdom of Lesotho is entirely surrounded by World Cup host country South Africa. In the run-up to the month-long, world's biggest sporting event, Bole and her countrymen had high hopes they would be beneficiaries of the millions of tourist and investment dollars flowing into Southern Africa. Bole Makeka, one of the thousands of people in Lesotho complaining of a lack of World Cup business. (HN, 2010)

Government officials here hoped that minor infrastructure upgrades - coupled with the country's natural beauty, proximity to the host nation and low costs - would lure soccer teams and tourists alike. There were also attempts to position Lesotho - which brands itself as the highest nation in the world - as an ideal place for athletes looking for high altitude training venues since no part of the nation exists below 1,500m.  

"There was a belief in Lesotho that thousands of visitors would come during the World Cup," said David Hall, an analyst who also manages a hilltop lodge in Morija, 45 km south of Maseru. “But we have only had a trickle.”

Lesotho's capital, Maseru, is just over an hour’s drive from Bloemfontein - one of the eight South African cities chosen to host World Cup matches.  One joke going around is that you can hear the vuvuzelas as far away as Maseru whenever a match is being played in Bloemfontein.

"Prior to the start of the World Cup we actually had very high hopes that Lesotho would benefit. But very unfortunately we have seen the opposite of that.  As people came from overseas we believed that is where the money would come from,” said Norman, a college professor in Maseru.  “But unfortunately we have not seen as many of them as we had expected."

Several sources in Lesotho interviewed by HUMNEWS said that instead of benefitting from the World Cup frenzy, Lesotho has actually been badly sidelined, even economically damaged.

The biggest complaint is that tens of thousands of people have had their cross-border travel privileges revoked due to a last-minute South African ruling in June mandating tighter border screening.
 

What that means in practical terms is that Lesotho citizens heading to their wealthier neighbour are unable to use the temporary document that normally gives them nearly unfettered access to South Africa. Travellers with Lesotho passports can still cross, but most people here don't carry a passport and applying for one means a lengthy wait - not to mention a hefty price tag.A concealed camera shows people lining up to cross the Lesotho-South Africa border. (HN, 2010)

Norman, the professor, said he believes the tightened border restrictions means that fewer South Africans are coming into Lesotho and that means tourists too. 

With about half of the people here living below the poverty line and with one of every two adults unemployed, the temptation to head to South Africa for better paying jobs is high. After customs revenues from South Africa, remittances from Lesotho nationals working in South African mines and other businesses is an important contributor to the nations’ coffers.

One Johannesburg-based book writer told HUMNEWS that his housekeeper - a Lesotho national - is stuck in Maseru for the entire duration of the World Cup because she had the misfortune of visiting home just as the new rules were introduced.

And getting a passport on a moment's notice is almost impossible. There is said to be a backlog of 250,000 passport applications at the Lesotho issuing office, which is only capable of processing just 6,000 passports a day.

One local businessman said the South African government's decision to tighten border controls was made in response to pressure from FIFA - which reportedly feared undesirables and soccer hooligans flying directly into Lesotho and then crossing unscreened into nearby South Africa.

However when asked by HUMNEWS whether this was the case, South Africa’s Trade Minister, Rob Davies, said the host nation had actually made it easier for southern Africans to visit. He added that neighbouring countries also have a responsibility to take advantage of opportunities created by the World Cup on their own. 

Mope, a sales representative at one of the major mobile phone operators, said that Lesotho is also losing out from its own citizens - those who can travel - going to Bloemfontein to catch some of the World Cup fever.  "They should be spending money here at home but instead they are going to South Africa and opening their wallets there." she said.

One of the poorest countries in southern Africa, Lesotho can least afford to take a financial hit from the Games. The country of 1.8-million has one of the highest HIV infections rates in the world - almost one of every three adults carries the virus - and one of the lowest life expectancy rates. Moreover it suffers enormously from a brain drain problem.

Ironically, the games have long-since been promoted by FIFA and South African Government officials as "Africa's Games." The 2010 games mark the first time the competition has been held on African soil and the so-far successful hosting has sparked new talk of Africa making a bid for the Olympics. 

Indeed, South African officials can hardly contain their exuberance when asked about what the Games will do for their nation. South African Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said recently the World Cup will add 0.4 percent (R38bn) to GDP this year.

But asked whether he thought the Games were truly African, the book writer replied in one word: "bullshit” - adding that, even in the host nation, there are tens of thousands of people who will not benefit, perhaps even lose money.

Former Irish President Mary Robinson said many street sellers in South African host cities have been moved from their customary spots to make room for the Games - and to satisfy stringent FIFA marketing rules. 

So harsh was the treatment of street vendors that Robinson, a former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, has publicly urged Brazil and other countries hosting major sporting events to take away lessons learned from the 2010 World Cup and ensure better treatment of vulnerable small businesspeople.

Most people in the service industry interviewed by HUMNEWS in Johannesburg and Cape Town said they could not attend any matches - due to long working hours, the difficulty in actually obtaining tickets and the high ticket prices.

--Reporting by HUMNEWS' Michael Bociurkiw in Maseru, Lesotho.

Friday
Jul022010

HUMNEWS HEADLINES - July 2, 2010 (Africa and the Middle East) 

ANGOLA

Foreign direct investment almost doubles between 2006 – 2008

Angola: Mobile ID’s issuing posts opens in Huambo

Angola: U.S. cooperation at best, says Ambassador Diakite

Angolan and Brazilian marines ready for mission in the community

Black Stars potential moment in history (sports)  

Angola: Jazz festival gathers 16 musicians

BOTSWANA

Botswana to offer new gold bullion ETF

Networking Botswana to the world

CAPE VERDE

Jonathan chairs ECOWAS summit in Cape Verde

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC

Central African bushmeat hits European market

ERITREA

The threat of a water war (op-ed)

Inhabitants of Gerset express satisfaction for becoming beneficiaries of development programs

Hgi Endaba: The laws of our ancestors (history/analysis)

GABON

Genocide fugitive faces extradition from Gabon

Corruption and environment top Ban’s talks with Gabonese leader  

GAMBIA

President Jammeh’s achievements highlighted in London

Taiwan embassy donated farm inputs to Gambian army

Food sold in markets should be hygienic  

Sunday beach on the spotlight (travel)

GHANA

Ghana in the vanguard of new logging laws

KENYA

Kenya data networks expands Wi-Fi services

LESOTHO

World Bank board of executive directors endorse new assistance strategy for Kingdom of Lesotho

LIBERIA

Reopening tourism in Liberia

Will congress pass LFA’s U.S. 1.8 million dollar budget?

LIBYA

Libyan envoy says Sudan never requested expulsion of Darfur rebel chief

Do not report Eritrean refugees – allow access to UN refugee agency

Vigilance urged as oil giant BP set to explore Libyan waters

Libya orders giant cruise boat

MALI

Mali gets 22.5 billion CFAF from Saudi fund, BOAD for dam project

MOZAMBIQUE

Mozambique: Former parliamentary deputy assassinated

Mozambique’s mobile license draws 22 bids

Attempt to  sell Mozambician island

Rebelo rejects ‘generation of the turning point’

NAMIBIA

The Swapo party’s – Think tank and the inner party’s disciple (opinion)

City’s ‘merciful’ tariff hikes

NIGERIA

Nigeria: Scientific development central to development

Nigeria: Highway with Cameroon fosters co-operation

SIERRA LEONE

Sierra Leone improves internet connectivity

Niomi Campbell subpoenaed in war crimes trial – what is a nice supermodel doing in a case like this?

What the UN Secretary General saw in Sierra Leone gave him hope for Africa

SOMALIA

Somali government declares offensive on al-Qaeda group

SOUTH AFRICA

2,000 apply for refugee status daily  

Evicted shack dwellers seek legal recourse

QATAR

Qatar signs military cooperation pact with Pakistan

Sovereign debt – the good, bad and plain ugly

$34bn projects are online in Qatar  

YEMEN

Al-Qaeda puts celebrities and bombs online with Inspire magazine

Yemen Shiite rebels bomb pro-government chieftains home, 3 killed

Yemen says G77 plus China attaches importance to UNDCF role

Yemen natural resources must be utilized well: IFAD official says

Turkish FM affirms support for Yemen’s unity, stability

Saturday
Jun262010

Zuma Draws Line in Sand: Africa Not at G20 With "Cap in Hand"

(HN, June 26, 2010) – CAPE TOWN, South Africa - Striking an almost heady tone, South African President Jacob Zuma said today that Africa intends to assert an aggressive stance at the G20 Summit and no longer make demands with "cap in hand."

Addressing the opening of a global business forum in the South African city of Cape Town via satellite, Zuma said: "Our voices will be heard on a number of issues...We seek equal partnership for meaningful growth and development in forums such as the G20 and G8.”

He said this included pressing for reforms of the international financial system and for the opening of markets.

Zuma said top on the agenda at the G20 - which takes place today and tomorrow in Ontario, Canada - will be measures needed to sustain recovery and the required reforms. "We will underline the urgency of considering the voice of the developing world in the creation and implementation of new financial standards and rules," Zuma said, adding that the African continent represents a market of almost one-billion, of which 20 million are in South Africa.

He added: "We are not here in Canada - cap in hand - to ask for some of these things."

The South African president's assertive voice is emblematic of the "New Africa" - a growing cadre of democratically elected leaders from the continent not satisfied to keep silent and let the developed world make most of the decisions that impact on them.

Zuma reminded his audience that sub-Saharan Africa is now the third fastest growing region in the world - after China and India. Fuelling the growth is demand for more consumer goods, sound economic policies and "improved political conditions."

Zuma wasted no time touting the positive qualities of the country he leads - citing world class infrastructure, improved tourism and sporting assets and solving bottlenecks. He said the international media's coverage during the ongoing World Cup has been incredibly positive.

In boasting about the benefits the World Cup will bring to South Africa, he made no mention of his neighbours - some of which, such as Lesotho - complain about being sidelined by the world's largest sporting event.

--- Reporting by HUMNEWS’ Michael Bociurkiw, at the Fortune/TIME/CNN Global Forum in Cape Town, South Africa

Saturday
Jun262010

Even Amid Global Slowdown, Southern African Growth Prospects Good

(HN, June 26, 2010) – CAPE TOWN, South Africa -- Southern Africa's growth prospects appear good even amid the global economic slowdown.

However with about a quarter of adults of working age out of work in South Africa, the nation's trade minister Rob Davies said more needs to be done.

South African Trade Minister Rob Davies at Fortune Global Forum

"It’s not where it needs to be...it’s not just the percentages of growth, we need to produce more labour absorption," he said, adding that structural changes also need to happen. Without being specific, he said the structural changes include enhancing "employment drivers."

Davies said recently forged trade agreements with various trading blocks and bilateral agreements are bringing mutually positive results.

In response to a question from HUMNEWS on whether neighbouring countries have benefitted from the hosting of the World Cup as much as they had hoped, Davies said host nation South Africa has "done as much as it could" to make the games a positive catalyst for its neighbours. This included easing border controls. He said it was up to nearby countries to create opportunities to benefit from the games.

 (Some of South Africa's neighbours like Lesotho complain that the reverse has happened: tighter border controls imposed for the Games has actually hurt them.)

In other comments, Davies said the clothing industry is an important sector in South Africa and in neighbouring countries. However more value would be created if the sector "upscaled" itself through, for example, the introduction of new technology. He also wants to see a clampdown on illegal imports of clothing.

The minister made the remarks at an opening media briefing of the Fortune Global Forum, which starts today in Cape Town.

--- Reporting by HUMNEWS’ Michael Bociurkiw, at the Fortune/TIME/CNN Global Forum in Cape Town, South Africa

Friday
Jun252010

HUMNEWS Focus: Introduction to Lesotho

(HN, 2010)

Thursday
Jun242010

Number of Orphans in Lesotho Continues to Grow

(HN, June 24, 2010) -- MASERU, Lesotho -- The number of orphans in the southern African kingdom of Lesotho continues to surge, with the latest data indicating as many as 270,000 - up from 180,000.

The figures were derived from the 2006 census and this newest number was recently released. However some sources put the number of orphans as high as 400,000.A woman in Maseru selling World Cup t-shirts (HN, 2010)

Most of the orphans come from families devastated by HIV AIDS. Lesotho has the third highest HIV AIDS rate in the world - with almost 30 percent of the adult population affected - according to the charitable organization Sentebale. It estimates that every day, 100 children in Lesotho are devastated by the death of a parent. With so few orphanages in the country only about one percent have access to institutionalized care.

In order that orphans and vulnerable children receive proper services several months ago, the country's Department of Social Welfare started a project to register all children that fall into this category. And in order to improve the well-being of vulnerable children, the government recently launched a "Child Grants" programme that provides a regular and unconditional quarterly payment of about $38 to orphans and other vulnerable children.

According to UNICEF: "The nexus of significant levels of poverty, chronic food insecurity and a high prevalence of HIV has dealt a serious blow to child survival, development and protection in Lesotho."

So ravaged is Lesotho by HIV AIDS and poverty that earlier this month several hundred people marched through the capital, Maseru, pleading for the landlocked country to be annexed by its wealthier neighbour, South Africa. Indeed, one South African immigration officer today, referred to Lesotho as the "tenth province."  She said thousands of people cross the border every day for work, though numbers are said to have dropped due to tighter movement restrictions imposed for the ongoing World Cup matches in South Africa.

--- Reporting by HUMNEWS’ Michael Bociurkiw.

Friday
Apr162010

FOCUS ON AIDS IN LESOTHO.....APRIL 16, 2010  

(HN, April 16, 2010) - Recently, HUM Adviser Dr. Judy Kuriansky travelled to Lesotho - where she returned to this week - to work with young girls aged 13-15 at a camp run by the First Lady of Lesotho, Mrs. Mathato Mosisilli. The camp, now in its third year is held with girls who were orphaned when parents died from the AIDS virus; and is designed to help them learn life skills such as nutrition, health and entrepreneurship; as well as their own HIV status. 

Lesotho, known as the 'Kingdom in the Sky' is the southernmost landlocked country in the world, surrounded entirely by South Africa.  Its capitol city is Maseru, and while the majority of the 1,800,000 people who live here - almost 60% - are between 15 and 64 years of age, Lesotho has a substantial youth population of around 35%.  Roughly 40% of the population lives below the international poverty line of US $1.25 a day.

A tiny country, Lesotho has one of the highest rates of HIV/AIDS infections in the world at almost 25%.  Lesotho’s first AIDS case was reported in 1986 and in cities, almost 50% of women under 40 are infected; and the general life expectancy for women now stands at 37; men at 41.  An estimated 62 new HIV infections and 50 deaths due to AIDS occur each day in the country.  Of those infected with HIV in Lesotho, almost 12,000 are children; an estimated 17% are aged 15-24; and 56% of the infected are women.

To deal with the devastating impact the AIDS epidemic has had on the country, the Lesotho government created a `Strategic Plan on HIV/AIDS' in 1999 to address the education, prevention, counseling, and treatment needs of the population and has formed a new National AIDS Commission to coordinate nationwide anti-AIDS activities which also distributes antiretroviral drugs.  Additionally, the government launched a proactive program in 2006 called "Know your status" to test everyone in the country who wants to be tested for HIV, funded by the Clinton Foundation

In recent years Lesotho has focused its attention on decreasing the rate of  'Mother to child transmission'.  In 2005 only 12% of pregnant HIV positive women were receiving antiretroviral drugs to prevent infection transmission and by 2008 an estimated 57% of pregnant women were receiving the drugs.  The percentage of women who agree to HIV testing during pregnancy has also increased and currently around 91% of pregnant women are tested. 

However, even with prevention, testing and counseling the number of AIDS orphans in Lesotho is rapidly growing. Out of all countries with HIV prevalence greater than 1 percent, Lesotho has the largest percentage of children who have lost one or both parents and are themselves unclear about what their own infection status is.  The amount of safe houses and orphanages that take care of orphans too young or unable to fend for themselves has grown tremendously and have tended to be unregulated.

This phenomenon can expose already vulnerable children to further trauma, abuse and neglect and serves to highlight why initiatives such as the First Lady’s `Help Lesotho’ leadership camps for girls are so important to the future of not just the children, but to the future of the country overall.

(Dr. Judy Kuriansky returns to Lesotho this week to conduct another edition of the `Help Lesotho’ girl’s camp in conjunction with the First Lady’s office.  Her next report will feature the outcome of her work there.)  

--- HUMNEWS, reporting by Joy DiBenedetto and Dr. Judy Kuriansky