THE European Union (EU) has injected €6, 4 million (M106 million) as part of its renewed commitment towards the social protection of vulnerable segments of Lesotho’s population.
This is the second such cash injection to the Strengthening Governance of Social Protection Programme which is expected to run till 2023 with the total budget of M270 million after the previous donation of €1, 6 million (M26 million) in September last year.
The new financial package follows the recent signing of the Financing Agreement Addendum for the Support in Strengthening Governance of Social Protection in Lesotho by the Head of Cooperation of EU Delegation, Markus Theobald, and the Finance minister Moeketsi Majoro.
The agreement was signed in the presence of Social Development minister ‘Matebatso Doti whose ministry has the responsibility of ensuring the funds are utilised for the benefit of the vulnerable sections of the population.
Speaking at the signing ceremony, Mr Theobald said the EU was moved to assist Lesotho by its firm conviction that governments should work to close the gap between the vulnerable and wealthier sections of the population.
“In Europe we have social market economies and their main feature is to prevent the exploitation of the vulnerable and poor who have only nothing else to offer to the society but their labour which contributes to growth and prosperity,” Mr Theobald said.
“We strongly believe that in our societies, nobody must be left behind and those who can afford should share with those who are in need. This is called solidarity and it is a core value of European citizens. This is a value that the EU tries to promote globally. However, social safety nets are not hammocks for those do not want to work and they are not meant to make anybody rich. They are meant to prevent the severe poverty and inequalities which unfortunately still persist in many developing countries.
“The EU is ready to share its experience and assist its partners around the globe in achieving their own objectives of elevating their people out of poverty, creating jobs and prosperity for all. Many Basotho are still struggling to make ends meet and are looking to the state to protect their mere existence. The EU gladly offers its help to protect the most disadvantaged and vulnerable Basotho.”
For his part, Dr Majoro commended the EU for its continued support to Lesotho, adding the assistance would help Lesotho in its quest for eventual self-reliance.
“Our mandate as government is to reduce the number of vulnerable people in society. The friendship of the EU is well appreciated as they are helping us to fight vulnerability.
“The EU also wants our economy to grow stronger for our own interest so that we can be capable to stand on our own feet and not depend of grants thereafter,” Dr Majoro said.
For her part, Ms Doti said the funds would be used to increase the number of vulnerable households covered under the National Information System for Social Assistance (NISSA).
“The funding will help the government to increase the NISSA coverage from 230 000 households to 350 000 by next year.
“We are working closely with the United Nations International Children’s Education Fund (UNICEF) and so far, we have managed to cover the rural areas. The plan is to move the NISSA programme to the urban areas.
“Since it is an ongoing project, we also have to train the auxiliary social workers in villages so that they can continue the work even in our absence. The funds will also be used to provide bursaries to vulnerable children who will start high school next year,” Ms Doti said.