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WOMEN IN LESOTHO SEXUALLY EXPLOITED IN EXCHANGE FOR FOOD

By Staff Writers

Maseru, Oct 11 (The Night’s Watch) – The combination of climate change and the global economic downturn means that Lesotho faces food insecurity.

Droughts, poverty and unemployment result in high levels of uncertainty and anxiety about where the next meal is going to come from.

In the period between May – September 2019, approximately 350,000 rural people were facing severe acute food security and required urgent humanitarian action.

This is according to a report produced by the office of the United Nations (UN) Resident Coordinator in Lesotho in collaboration with humanitarian partners.

Even more bad is that the situation is getting worse.

The situation is expected to deteriorate further and around 430,410 rural people are expected to be severely food insecure, the report shows.

This is because the rainfall received in all the ten districts was below average from September to November last year, which is the normal period for planting most crops.

This resulted in most of the crops across the country not reaching the expected stages of growth during the cropping season a decline in crop production of an estimated 21 percent.

Like many other matters, the concept of food insecurity in Lesotho is also characterised by gendered dimensions, in that women usually bear the brunt of food insecurity.

Women and girls are sexually exploited in return for food, the UN found.

“Girls and young women who are heads of household are also more exposed to sexual abuse and sexual exploitation in exchange for food,” the UN report reads.

The report was issued by the Humanitarian Country Team on Wednesday this week.

It states that occasional reports mention that some girls drop out of school to support the household and siblings.

“Child marriages are likely to rise in the near future and need to be monitored,” it reads.

Severe drought has been linked to increased HIV rates among young women in Lesotho, according to an analysis by ICAP at the University of Colombia, USA and published in PLOS Medicine.

Using data collected as part of the Lesotho Population-Based HIV Impact Assessment (LePHIA), a national HIV survey of 12,887 people conducted in 2016 and 2017, the researchers also found that young women aged 15 to 24 in areas affected by drought were more likely to have earlier first-time sex, transactional sex and were less likely to stay in school. 

The UN report published on Wednesday shows that according to the Rapid Assessment of March 2019, 12.5 percent of women reported that the access to their main water sources had dramatically changed.

“As a result, they have to travel longer hours to collect water. This also has direct impact on the time they can allocate to work the fields, fewer opportunities to attend antenatal clinics and continuity in the use of contraceptives,” it reads.

In the 2017/2018 year, Lesotho’s food insecure population was 306 942 and increased by one percent to last year’s 308 966.

Food insecurity is identified as a critical barrier to adherence to antiretroviral therapy (ART) and retention in care among Human Immune Virus (HIV) and Tuberculosis (TB) infected adults, HIV infected pregnant women and their HIV exposed infants.

It is said that there is a growing evidence that links food and nutrition security with adherence to HIV and TB treatment, reduction in morbidity, prevention of transmission among adolescent girls and reduction in mortality among people living with HIV/AIDS.

Lesotho is one of the highest HIV prevalent countries in the world.

According to the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), the high prevalence of HIV and AIDS “accounts for more than 40 percent of all deaths in Lesotho”.

An estimated 330 000 people out of the two million population were living with HIV in 2016.

In the same year, 9 900 people died from AIDS-related illnesses. NW

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