Speech by the UN Resident Coordinator on the occasion of the Commemoration of United Nations Day 2020
Bo-Mme le Bo-Ntate, Khotsong! ALLOW TO PAY MY RESPECTS TO:
His Majesty king LETSIE III,
THE RIGHT HONOURABLE THE PRIME MINISTER,
THE HONOURABLE PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE,
HONOURABLE SPEAKER OF THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY,
HIS LORDSHIP THE PRESIDENT OF THE COURT OF APPEAL,
HER LADYSHIP THE ACTING CHIEF JUSTICE,
HONOURABLE MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT,
HONOURABLE DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER,
HONOURABLE MINISTERS OF HIS MAJESTY’S GOVERNMENT, SPECIAL ACKNOWLEDGEMENT FOR HON. NTLOI MOTSAMAI, MOET AND HON. MATSEPO RAMAKOAE, MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS
THEIR LORDSHIPS JUDGES OF THE COURT OF APPEAL AND THE hIGH COURT,
Your Excellencies members OF THE DIPLOMATIC CORPS,
MY COLLEAGUES FROM UN LESOTHO;
HER WORSHIP THE MAYORESS OF MASERU,
OUR FRIENDS FROM THE ROTARY CLUB;
CHAIRPERSONS OF STATUTORY BODIES AND PRINCIPAL SECRETARIES,
heads of disciplined forces, security and correctional services,
HEADS OF ACADEMIC INSTITUTIONS and Parastatal enterprises,
REPRESENTATIVES OF THE PRIVATE SECTOR, CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANIZATIONS AND MEDIA HOUSES,
FRIENDS OF THE UNITED NATIONS, ESPECIALLY THOSE PARTICIPATING TO THE MODEL UN DEBATE,
DISTINGUISHED GUESTS, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, ALL PROTOCOL OBSERVED
It is with honour and great pleasure that I take the floor this afternoon as we celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the United Nations one day ahead. So let me start off by wishing you all a very Happy 75th Anniversary of the United Nations!
As you know, tomorrow marks 75 years since the UN Charter was ratified, on the 24th October 1945. 75 years ago, the United Nations had 51 Member States; today it has 193 member states and a the responsibility to serve a long list of issues. It is UN’s responsibility to support peace and security, sustainable development, human rights, gender equality, good governance, climate change, food production, to respond swiftly and appropriately to health and humanitarian emergencies, and much more.
The COVID-19 pandemic has upended the world and turned from a health crisis to the most severe socio-economic disaster in almost 100 years. At the same time, the devastating effects of climate change are accelerating and must be quickly brought under control to prevent yet another crisis.
In Lesotho, due to the necessary lockdowns to contain the spread of COVID-19, the economy is expected to shrink by 5.7% in 2020, poverty levels are expected to increase by between 1.2 to 1.9% and the number of people facing food insecurity increased to 764,000 by July 2020.
Sadly, a significant number of Basotho have lost their jobs, particularly those working in MSMEs, the mining and textile sectors and migrant workers in South Africa. The fall in remittances from these migrants is likely to further increase household vulnerability.
Access to essential health services has been made more difficult due to movement restrictions and challenges in maintaining trade flows that provide essential medicines. Finally, many children have experienced a long period without access to education, including many that were reliant on school feeding programmes.
There is a very real threat that the socio-economic effects of COVID-19 will reverse a decade’s progress towards sustainable development.
Honourable Ministers, Distinguished guests, Bo Mme le Bo Ntate
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the United Nations in Lesotho stayed and delivered. At the start of the pandemic, in collaboration with the World Bank, the IMF, and the African Development Bank, we undertook an assessment of the socio-economic impact of the pandemic on Lesotho. This was used to guide our responses to the pandemic, ensuring that no one was left behind, and that human rights and gender equality were upheld. Our current Socio-Economic Response Plan for the Kingdom of Lesotho outlines 18 activities to alleviate the socio-economic fallout with a total budget of US$68 million to be mobilized.
Honorable Ministers, Distinguished guests, Bo Mme le Bo Ntate
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the UN system invested substantial amount of resources and efforts across sectors. The UN system supported the Ministry of Health to develop a National Preparedness and Response Plan for COVID-19; mobilised US$ 1 million to control the spread of COVID-19 in Lesotho and consequently to alleviate the socio-economic impact; and supported the provision of essential health services to all 193 health facilities in the Kingdom of Lesotho. It also supported the procurement of a full range essential COVID-19 supplies and the development of innovative solutions like the “Bophelo ka Mosebeletsi”, a mobile surveillance application to monitor suspected COVID-19 and quarantine cases at community level.
The application is being used by Village Health Workers. On risk communication, over 970,000 people were reached with COVID-19 messaging on prevention and access to essential services during the COVID-19 period. Group handwashing facilities were provided to improve hand hygiene services in COVID-19 high risk areas, communities and health care settings. Close to 100 group handwashing stations are being installed countrywide and rural households are supported to construct simple tippy taps for handwashing. Building of hand washing stations is under way in 800 schools countrywide.
Maternal and reproductive health services were greatly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and UN supported the Government to preserve women’s continued access to maternal and reproductive health. With support from UN over 50 000 women received access to maternal and reproductive health services since the onset of the pandemic, whilst 8,700 individuals received psychosocial support services.
We undertook a comprehensive assessment to understand the impact of COVID-19 on people living with HIV ; and supported the Government in protecting supplies of antiretroviral therapy to those that are in need through alternative community engagement during the pandemic.
To contribute to provision of essential health services the UN system mobilised US$ 4 million to support the Government of Lesotho for improved community health systems and protecting HIV and tuberculosis programmes from being affected by the pandemic.
In education; UN supported continuity of learning during lockdown for preschool, primary and secondary school learners and over 400 000 learnerswere reached with both radio and TV lessons.
In preparation for re-opening of schools; UN supported the Government in the development of schools reopening guidelines and standards. Furthermore, the UN has successfully mobilized $3.5 Million for the education sector response for COVID 19 through the Global Partnership for Education.
One major impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the returning migrants from South Africa. Following a rapid assessment of the impact that COVID-19 has had on returning migrants and on their reintegration into communities, the UN launched projects to protect returnees in Mafeteng, Mohale'shoek, Quthing and Qacha's Nek districts; to ensure access to health services for 2,000 migrants, sex workers and young people in Leribe district; and to provide support of victims of violence, including the rehabilitation of a new crisis shelter.
Honorable Ministers, Distinguished guests, Bo Mme le Bo Ntate
As vulnerability grew during the onset of the pandemic, the UN supported the government in stepping up efforts against food insecurity. This resulted in provision of food parcels to 242,535 primary school children and 8,041 vulnerable individuals in Qacha's Nek, Quthing, Mafeteng, Mohale's Hoek and Maseru with mobile money cash transfers.
Meanwhile, Lesotho’s recent experience with drought, failed harvests and riding food insecurity highlights the Kingdom’s vulnerability to the effects of climate change. Whilst Lesotho is a relatively minor contributor to climate change, Lesotho will nonetheless feel its devastating consequences through droughts, heat waves, and increasing episodes of flash flooding and other extreme weather events.
On Climate Change; the UN provided support to the Government of Lesotho to consider a COVID-19 response that is both climate and environmentally sensitive yet inclusive and gender responsive.
Following the establishment of financial support scheme in 2019 to attract participation of investors in generation of clean energy, UN facilitated signing of concession and grant agreements between GoL and investors for the development of 6 mini-grids and 4 energy centres that will facilitate access to clean energy in the remote mountainous areas of Lesotho. The agreements will facilitate disbursement of $480,000 in 2020 earmarked for development of both the mini-grids and energy centres.To help improve access to water for both domestic and agriculture use, UN supported water harvesting initiatives in the form of surface and underground dams, stone built standalone tanks and roof water tanks. These tanks have been instrumental in reducing women hard labour to collect water for agriculture and domestic use. Integration approach to sustainable natural resource management in Moheales-mo-hoek district has enhanced access to water; through the provision of portable water to 24 villages in the districts; 200 water harvesting tanks to households and schools; complemented by 2000 energy efficient stoves to mitigate natural resource destruction for fuel. Over 2000 persons benefited from cash for work valued at 9 M maloti for land rehabilitation.
As I conclude, I wish to re-affirm that the United Nations in Lesotho stands with the government and the people of Lesotho as they Build Back Better. To create a Lesotho that is green, equal and fair. To support private sector development and job creation, but in a manner that is green and provides fair working conditions to all. To develop strong social safety systems to ensure that all Basotho have access to decent health and education and that nobody falls through the cracks.
As you may know, the WFP also won the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts to combat hunger, and so deserve a massive congratulations from all of us.
At this juncture, please allow me to read the message of the UN Secretary General on UN Day 2020.