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Six thousand workers face bleak future

Boitumelo Koloi

THE future of more than 6000 workers hangs in the balance as the Apparel Lesotho Alliance to Fight Aids (ALAFA) deal comes to an end next month.

According to ALAFA Executive Director Andy Salm, the project’s funding has lapsed and if government continues to snub the organisation, Aids-related deaths would be on the rise again.
“When the project began in 2006, Aids-related deaths were skyrocketing; there was at least a funeral every weekend resulting from Aids-related illnesses,” Salm said in an interview at yesterday’s commemoration of World Day for Safety and Health at Work held in Maseru.

ALAFA, an internationally-funded initiative to fight the scourge of HIV/AIDS among textile factory workers, was launched in 2006 in the midst of a 23.3 percent HIV prevalence in Lesotho.
Since its inception, many HIV-positive workers who would have otherwise given in to the illness, have been given a new lease of life and were able to live and fend for their households.

Salm said as a way of preparing for the project’s demise, the 6 000 HIV-positive patients who were being monitored and treated under the project were already being transferred to government health centres.
“For Lesotho, the closure of the project would be a major drawback, if nothing is done about the situation,” he said.

Over and above the 6 000 patients who face a bleak future, there is an additional 22 Basotho employees in the project, and whose jobs are also under threat.
However, Salm said ALAFA would continue deliberations with government to find a way to salvage the project and save more lives in the textile industry. Consultative meetings were already set with government officials, Salm added.

“There has been some positive progress lately and we can only hope that an amicable solution will be found,” he said.
The Labour Commissioner, ‘Mamohale Matsoso, said government supported the “good work” done by ALAFA, hence the need to ensure the organisation’s continued operation.

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