UNITED Nations agencies have reaffirmed their commitment to helping Lesotho achieve the ambitious Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as well as putting in place mechanisms to address adverse effects of natural disasters.
The agencies – United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), World Food Programme (WFP), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and Aids (UNAIDS) and World Health Organisation – said this in a recent breakfast meeting to showcase their humanitarian efforts in Lesotho.
The meeting came against the background of the release of a report on the Humanitarian Country Team response to the El Nino-induced drought a fortnight ago.
Lesotho was one of the southern African countries worst hit by the 2015/16 El Nino-induced drought, leaving more than 600 000 people food insecure and living below poverty line.
Lesotho required in excess of M630.8 million for drought relief programmes in order to address the situation.
Government set aside M155 million and asked international partners to contribute the balance.
According to the UN report released a fortnight ago, Lesotho received the biggest funding of US$40.7 million (M526.8 million) to respond to the adverse effects of the drought.
Natural disasters like El Nino-induced drought compromised affected countries’ ability to successfully achieve the ambitious 2030 SDGs, particularly goal 2 which seeks to ensure that there is zero hunger and goal 3 seeking to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being of all by 2030.
This disaster and many others further compromised efforts to address Lesotho’s high HIV prevalence rate (25 percent) and end HIV infections by 2030 through the ambitious 90-90-90 targets.
The targets seek to ensure that by 2020, 90 percent of all people living with HIV will know their HIV status. The second 90 target seeks to ensure that 90 percent of all people with diagnosed HIV infection will receive sustained antiretroviral (ARV) therapy while the last 90 target stated that by 2020 90 percent of all people receiving ARV therapy will have viral suppression.
Successfully achieving these targets will ensure that the world eliminates the Aids pandemic by 2030.
Lesotho domesticated the SDGs early this year and was yet to pick its target priorities out of the 17 SDGs.
Addressing the media on Tuesday, UNDP Country Resident, Salvator Niyonzima said the UN was committed to helping the country set its priorities and achieve the SDGs come 2030.
“The understanding is that all SDGs are interdependent and difficult to pick one and leave the other,” Mr Niyonzima said, adding, “However, there are far-reaching SDGs that can accelerate the performance of the country hence the need for the prioritisation exercise”.
He said a domestic prioritisation exercise was underway with a series of workshops on SDGs as well as building on the achievements of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
He said it was important that the country’s second National Strategic Development Programme (NDSP) document would be drawn in a way that responded to the country’s abilities to achieve the ambitious 2030 goals.
“We are working closely with government to come up with NSDP and ensure that the document is in line with the SDGs,” he said.
For her part, WFP Country Director Mary Njoroge said the programme was working closely with government structures to help Lesotho achieve the SDGs, especially goal 2 which seeks to end hunger by 2030.
“There is a need for Lesotho and its people to have ownership of the NSDP II, especially given that in this time and age no one should be going to bed hungry,” Ms Njoroge said, adding that Lesotho needed to go the extra mile in addressing hunger issues to make His Majesty King Letsie III’s work as FAO and African Union Nutrition Champion easier.
“Lesotho should be able to be seen taking an extra mile on addressing issues of nutrition and food insecurity and be an example to the world.”
Meanwhile, Ms Njoroge said they were also working hard to ensure that Basotho stand on their two feet after the lapse of the emergency response programme.
The programme – which started in 2016 and ends on June 30, 2017 – targets vulnerable people and households in sectors like Food Security and Social Protection; Agriculture; Water, Sanitation and Hygiene; and Health and Nutrition.
“We need to understand that communities eat what they grow and grow what they eat and when they are in shock from natural disasters like El Nino-induced drought, they are negatively affected and are unable to continue with their normal routine,” Ms Njoroge said, adding that it was therefore important that emergency response programmes targeted vulnerable communities.
She said that response programmes were therefore tailored in a way that vulnerable communities would be assisted until the next harvest season, which is underway.
“There are therefore ongoing resilience programmes, independent from the emergency response programme, to ensure that communities stand on their feet and are able to lead normal lives starting the end of this month,” he said.
For his part, FAO Representative Yves Klompenhouwer said there was need to use available technologies that use less water and increase availability of water to address the country’s water woes.
“The country also needs to come up with strategies that will encourage use of crop seeds resistant to drought. I must however, say that Lesotho is not out of the woods as yet and we need to work harder to ensure that we achieve the SDGs,” Mr Klompenhouwer said.
He warned that Lesotho continued to be highly vulnerable to natural disasters and increases in food prices.
He said there was a need for a better resilience programme to make the country better prepared to respond to natural disasters and the food price hikes.
“We need to ensure that vulnerable households are better prepared for a future without food insecurity even during natural disasters like this drought,” Mr Klompenhouwer said.