By Staff Writers

Maseru, March 16 (The Night’s Watch) – Peace Corps Lesotho will temporarily suspend its program and evacuate all volunteers in light of the spread of the novel coronavirus, the United States embassy announced on Monday.

This follows an announcement by the Peace Corps Director, Judy Olsen, on Sunday of the suspension of all volunteer activities around the word due to the COVID-19 outbreak and related travel constraints and school closures.

“Following on evacuations that have taken place in certain countries, all Peace Corps volunteers worldwide are now being evacuated,” the embassy in Maseru said in a statement on Monday.

“As a result of this announcement, Peace Corps Lesotho will temporarily suspend its program and is working with volunteers, host communities, and host country officials to evacuate Lesotho-based volunteers as soon as possible,” it added.

The U.S embassy said for more than 50 years, the Peace Corps has been a pillar of the partnership between the United States and Lesotho.

“Therefore, we would like to stress to the public that Peace Corps Lesotho is not closing, and all parties will work to resume operations as soon as possible when conditions normalize,” it said.

In an open letter to volunteers posted Sunday on its website, the federal agency’s director, Olsen, said: “As COVID-19 continues to spread and international travel becomes more and more challenging by the day, we are acting now to safeguard your well-being and prevent a situation where Volunteers are unable to leave their host countries.”

Olsen said volunteers had already been evacuated from China and Mongolia.

“Unfortunately, it has become clear in the last 48 hours that numerous posts must follow suit,” she said.

“I want to stress that Headquarters remains open under its own Continuity of Operations Plan, and agency personnel are working 24/7 to support you and our staff overseas,” Olsen continued.

She said the suspension is temporary.

“We are not closing posts, and we will be ready to return to normal operations when conditions permit. Importantly, our host country staff will remain in their current positions,” she said.

The Peace Corps was established in 1961 during the John F. Kennedy administration as a government-run volunteer program serving nations around the world.

It sends Americans with a passion for service abroad on behalf of the United States to work with communities and create lasting change.

Volunteers develop sustainable solutions to address challenges in education, health, community economic development, agriculture, the environment and youth development.

Through their Peace Corps experience, volunteers gain a unique cultural understanding and a life-long commitment to service that positions them to succeed in today’s global economy.

Peace Corps website says volunteers perform community work in more than 60 countries today and that more than 235,000 Americans have served in 141 countries since its inception.

To date, more than 2600 Americans have served alongside communities across Lesotho. NW

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