MASERU — Britain will stop giving bilateral aid to Lesotho in 2016.
Lesotho is one of the 16 countries that Andrew Mitchell, the secretary of state for international development, said will be affected by deep cuts in United Kingdom (UK)’s aid budget.
Lesotho, which is ranked 28th on the World Bank list of the poorest countries in the world, receives about US$10 million in aid from the UK annually.
UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) is currently funding the Apparel Lesotho Alliance to Fight Aids, a prevention and treatment project targeting Lesotho’s nearly 40 000 factory workers.
The clothing industry is Lesotho’s largest employer and provides jobs for around 40 000 workers, 80 percent of whom are women.
Alafa has reached 94 percent of the workers in the clothing industry with preventative HIV services. About 83 percent of those with HIV and Aids are currently on Alafa’s treatment programme.
With nearly a quarter of its population infected with HIV Lesotho will be greatly affected by the aid cut.
Health Minister Mphu Ramatlapeng told the international media the cut comes in the wake of the UK closing its high commission.
“Lesotho is not a priority of the British government. So it is easy for us to fall off,” Ramatlapeng told BBC.
The cuts have been roundly condemned by charity organisations that feel that Lesotho and other countries affected by the decision still deserved to get aid because of their precarious situations.
ACTSA director Tony Dykes said in a press statement the decision to cut aid to Lesotho is a clear indication of how the British government views Lesotho.
“It seems Lesotho has (been) singled out for being small. This decision will hit the country hard and the people it will most affect are the ordinary people of Lesotho,” Dykes said.
Dykes said there was a need for the British government to revisit their decision for the sake of ordinary people.
“There is no logic to the decision on the grounds of poverty. The British aid programme was one of the largest to Lesotho and we urge a rethink of this decision,” he said.
Britain will also stop sending direct aid to Burundi and Niger, two of the world’s poorest countries.
Britain will also withdraw from the UN Industrial Development Organisation and will stop voluntary core funding to UN Habitat, the International Labour Organisation and the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction.
These organisations have been assisting Lesotho.
Harriet Harman, the shadow international development, challenged Mitchell to explain the cuts to such poor countries.
Harman asked: “Can he confirm that decisions to cut aid to very poor countries like Niger and Lesotho involved co-ordination with other donor countries to make sure that our decisions don’t leave them literally high and dry? Can I also ask him to explain his decision to end aid to Burundi where there is deep poverty and which is in the Great Lakes region where there is still instability?”
Mitchell said cutting aid to the 16 countries would allow Britain to concentrate its resources on 27 countries which include Afghanistan, Pakistan and South Africa.
Additional reporting by the Guardian UK