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EU approves €9, 5 million grant to help Lesotho fight Covid-19

Bataung Moeketsi

THE European Union (EU) will soon approve a €9, 5 million grant to Lesotho to help combat the socio-economic effects of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

EU Ambassador to Lesotho Christian Manahl this week told the Sunday Express that €5, 5 million of that amount would come directly from the EU. The remaining €4 million would come from the European Commission Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO).

“This grant is specifically to help Basotho cope with the economic and social effects of Covid-19,” Dr Manahl said.

“It will be used to cushion both rural and urban communities especially where people have lost their jobs. A lot of people in the informal sector are facing very difficult times and we must help them get through this.

“The EU is also in discussions with some of its international partners to map the way forward once the pandemic passes. The talks include suggestions on how Lesotho’s economy can be jumpstarted and transformed.

“There are discussions on how the private sector can be less reliant on state funding for development. There are also discussions on how agriculture can be resilient against climate change and productive so that Lesotho can feed its people, provide jobs and provide agricultural output,” he said.

The EU has been a consistent pillar of support to various initiatives to cushion the most vulnerable sections of Lesotho’s population.

It contributed significantly when the World Food Programme (WFP) launched an emergency response to assist vulnerable households from October 2019 until June 2020 in response to former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s declaration of a national emergency due to severe drought.

About 77 882 households were receiving support from the WFP programme in Mafeteng, Mohale’s Hoek, Quthing and Qacha’s Nek in the form of monthly mobile money transfers and (MPESA) and grocery vouchers with a combined value of M755 to each family.

The EU then contributed €1, 5 million to enable the WFP to expand its support to an additional 22 105 Basotho, bringing the total number of beneficiaries to close to 100 000.

During a tour of the country’s southern districts along with WFP country director Mary Njoroge a fortnight ago, Dr Manahl said the EU’s priority was to help villagers manage the effects of recurrent droughts.

“The objective should not be to create a situation where humanitarian and emergency assistance becomes a constant feature but to help these communities find ways of coping with this new (drought) situation which we assume has to do with climate change and is therefore likely to repeat itself.

“It is necessary to find ways to help adapt agriculture by making it drought resilient through drought-resistant crops and exploring other possibilities of agricultural exploitation that will provide a sustainable livelihood,” Dr Manahl said.

He added that the EU believes that the new government led by Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro has good intentions and objectives. He said they hoped the government would remain stable and achieve its goals before the 2022 elections.

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