AIDS support group on brink of collapse

AIDS support group on brink of collapse

MASERU – A local HIV/ Aids support group is on the brink of collapse after its main donors allegedly withdrew financial support citing the current political situation in Lesotho.

The Bontleng Support Group, which is based in Ha-Pita in Maseru, said it has been battling to raise funds after donors closed the taps following political disturbances after the 2015 general election.

Bontleng Support Group says early last year it lost the support of two of its main financiers, Fire Light Organisation and Save the Children Fund allegedly because of political reasons.
Save the Children Fund however rejected the charge saying the donors in the United States pulled out after they ran out of funds.
thepost could not get comment from Fire Light last night.

The support group says Fire Light used to donate about M30 000 every year. The group said it used the money to support 60 orphans and vulnerable children.
The Save the Children Fund also used to give the group non-financial assistance but it too stopped the donations.

Only Tzu Chi, a Taiwanese organisation which has been providing rice for the children and HIV patients, is still providing support to the group.
The support group chairperson, ’Mathabang Phatela, said as a result they had since slashed the number of children they were supporting from the initial 60 to 13.
She says they are however grateful to the American Embassy which donated M200 000 for them to buy chickens from an organisation called Rhode Island Red Chickens so that they can sell eggs to the community to raise funds.

Phatela said at present their only hope is pinned on the arrival of the chickens.
So far they have bought cages and built corrugated iron shacks for the hens.

The Bontleng Support Group was set up in 2002 to raise awareness about HIV and Aids and fight stigma associated with the pandemic.
The group was founded by ’Mamoeletsi Lekhooa, who was living with the virus.

But the group has since expanded its focus by helping abandoned and less privileged children.
The Bontleng Support Group said three of their children who were under its care have since graduated from tertiary institutions. The three are Liteboho Tšeole, Phakiso Sello and Thabang Masakae.

Out of the 13 kids the group is currently supporting, one is a high school student in Form C.
Phatela says the current tough economic challenges are putting the future of these children at risk. She said they are battling to raise school and exam fees for the children.
“We do not have any measures to take because we do not have funds in our organization, and the donations have stopped coming in,” Phatela says.
“It’s discouraging because these children are looking up to us, but we have also run out of ideas.”

Phatela says “with the stigma still hovering in some communities, kids in schools still suffer the horror of being bullied and called names, and some of them fail (as a result)”.
She however said despite that “the organization has been left for dead, the members still believe there is hope”.
“As much as the future is a little blurry ahead, we still believe there is going to be light at the end of the tunnel,” she says.

Phatela says the Bontleng Support Group is in need of at least M80 000 to immediately deal with the current situation.
Lesotho has the second highest HIV prevalence rates in the world after Swaziland. At least one in every four Basotho are said to be HIV positive. There are currently more than 200 000 orphans in Lesotho, with most of the orphaned children being due to AIDS.

Save the Children Fund’s Lesotho office said the donor from the US informed them that due to lack of money they could no longer donate to local organisations.
“They could no longer fund Bontleng Support Group as well as our own Lesotho Save the Children Fund because they do not have money,” the organisation said.

Matšeliso Sehloho

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