LESOTHO yesterday joined the rest of the globe in commemorating World Day for Safety and Health at the Workplace.
The Day is traditionally celebrated annually on April 28 under the auspices of the International Labour Organisation to promote the prevention of occupational accidents and diseases.
The theme for this year’s celebration is ‘Safety and Health in the Use of Chemicals at Work’, and is aimed at highlighting the importance and danger of chemicals in the garment-manufacturing industry.
Lesotho’s commemorations, which took place in Maseru, were organised by Better Work Lesotho — a voluntary programme whose ultimate goal is to reduce poverty by expanding decent work opportunities in targeted export sectors, among them the textile industry.
However, a grim reality emerged at yesterday’s commemoration after an announcement that the Apparel Lesotho Alliance to Fight Aids (ALAFA) — an organisation dedicated to fighting HIV and AIDS among textile factory workers — had started winding up its operations due to lack of funds.
According to ALAFA Executive Director Andy Salm, his organisation has run out funding and would soon cease operations, leaving the future of more than 6000 textile factory workers under its care and treatment programme, uncertain.
With the thousands under its care, there is no doubt that the closure of the ALAFA programme would have far-reaching effects for the country.
But it has since emerged ALAFA was continually relying on funding from the European Union and German government, with very little coming from our own government and local textile factories, whose very survival is dependent on the very same workers ALAFA has so admirably helped look after.
The ALAFA Board of Management has confirmed on the organisation’s website that a decision has already been taken to start the process of terminating the implementation of its programmes.
It is common knowledge that Lesotho is one of the countries with the highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS — a disease that continues to defy conventional medicine, and remains incurable to this day.
In-fact, Lesotho’s HIV-prevalence is the third highest in the world, behind our neighbours Swaziland and Botswana.
According to Better Work Lesotho, it is estimated that the HIV-infection rate in the garment sector exceeds 40-percent, which should be cause for concern since the textile industry is the country’s largest formal employer with an estimated 40 000 workers.
With ALAFA having been dedicated to helping this evidently vulnerable community of the workforce, the organisation’s closure is but a very sad day for this country.
The government and textile industry bosses, for obvious reasons, should feel ashamed for not taking the required steps to ensure the survival of this organisation.
Lesotho requires every intervention she can have to combat HIV and AIDS, whose devastating effects can only be downplayed by the most hypocritical among us.
That is why we believe allowing ALAFA and other such humanitarian organisations to collapse when they could have been saved, is a betrayal of the trust society put in those in positions to take remedial decisions.