EU pumps in €5.5m to fight Covid-19

EU pumps in €5.5m to fight Covid-19

MASERU-THE European Union (EU) this week handed over €5.5 million (about M110 million) to help Basotho who have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The money is from the 11th European Development Fund (EDF).
An additional €4.4 million (approximately M86 million) has been mobilised for Lesotho through the Humanitarian Department of the European Commission (Echo).
It will be implemented through three United Nations agencies, the Food Agricultural Organisation (FAO), International Organisation of Migrants (IOM) and the World Food Programme (WFP) as well as through World Vision.

The UN Resident Coordinator, Salvator Niyonzima, said the Covid-19 pandemic is not only a health crisis but “it also has very real socio-economic consequences”.
Niyonzima said economic growth in Lesotho is forecast to contract by 5.2 percent in 2020, which will also pose a serious risk to already food insecure households.

He said social transfers play a key role “in alleviating poverty and inequality”.
Under the five-year National Social Protection Strategy (NSPS), he said, the government has strengthened social protection systems and increased their resilience.

He commended the government for “its strong commitment to strengthening social protection systems to reduce poverty, deprivation, vulnerability and inequality.”
However, Niyonzima said despite the large public investments in social protection, social transfers were not able to reach every individual in need.
He said with the EU funds UNICEF will support government ministries, including that of Social Development, to increase social spending.

He said UNICEF will work with its partners in government ministries towards implementing the Government’s Covid-19 Social Protection Sectors Response Plan, including the Child Grant Programme.

He said the UNICEF will increase cash transfers to 40 000 households that are already in the programme and will provide new cash transfers to an additional 16 000 vulnerable households.
“The COVID-19 crisis has underscored the need for Lesotho to be more self-reliant in food production, as border closures have reduced food supplies and increased food prices, threatening food security for the most vulnerable,” Niyonzima said.

He said the EU funds will enable the three UN agencies to coordinate with the Ministries of Agriculture, Social Development and the Disaster Management Authority (DMA) to support food security and the agricultural sector.

Niyonzima said the WFP received €2.8 million (equivalent to M55.5 million), which will enable 34 000 severely food insecure people to be included in the government’s existing Public Assistance Programme.
“The socio-economic impact of Covid-19, alongside recurrent drought, has forced WFP to expand into urban areas, which were historically more food secure,” he said.

He said food-insecure households under the programme will be provided with M831 per month to buy food and other basic needs.
The remaining funds have been distributed between FAO and IOM.
He said FAO will provide agricultural inputs and technical support to 5 000 vulnerable farming households and will vaccinate 100 000 animals, belonging to 4 000 vulnerable farming households to increase their income opportunities and national food security.

The EU Ambassador Christian Manahl said the EU Delegation decided not to get involved in the health aspects of national efforts to contain the virus and to cure the sick.
He said they felt that there were other international partners ‘better placed’ as they have been working with health for a long time.

“We decided to focus on helping alleviate the socio-economic hardships imposed on Basotho citizens by the pandemic as well as by the necessary lockdown,” Manahl said.
“We are aware that people in urban and peri-urban areas who lost their jobs or businesses have been particularly hard hit, and we want to contribute to mitigating their suffering as a consequence of the pandemic,” he said.

Social Development Minister ’Matebatso Doti said the EU and UN agencies have been serving vulnerable Basotho for decades.
Doti said the National Information System for Social Assistance (Nissa) roll-out that started in 2017 now holds 331 000 households from all 64 rural community councils.

She said the NISSA data collection also targets 216 000 households from 12 urban councils.
“We are glad that this data will be a basis for selecting social programme recipients for the current support,” Doti said.
She said her ministry, the DMA and three UN agencies are engaged in a project called Strengthening Disaster Risk Reduction in Lesotho where a number of framework documents that aim at strengthening Shock Responsive Social Protection have been developed.
“At this moment we have a compounded impact of the 2019 drought and Covid-19,” she said.

She said the EU support will benefit more than 257 416 individuals.
She said when they first made the request, they had 40 000 child grants programme (CGP) beneficiary households but the number has increased to approximately 50 000.
“This means we are going to be able to provide assistance to more than 55 960 CGP households through this support.”

Doti said 50 000 CGP households will receive additional once off top up of M1 500 and more than 5 960 will receive once off payment of M2 268 to alleviate the impacts of drought and Covid-19.
She said the support they get from UN family “is always on time and is able to reach the vulnerable people of this nation.”

The Disaster Management Authority (DMA) CEO, Thabo Khasipe, said the support was not only solely needed but “very much in need as it was clear that since the pandemic, socio-economic impact has to be addressed as urgently as possible”.

“We will be ready to provide necessary contributions to make sure that we put these funds to good use,” he said.
“This support comes in very handy and very much aligned with the plans of the government.”

’Mapule Motsopa

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