Lockdown  deepens poverty

Lockdown deepens poverty

MASERU-THE Covid-19-induced lockdown has increased by almost 50 percent the numbers of food insecure households in Lesotho’s urban and rural areas.

That is according to a Covid-19 policy document issued by the government on Monday.
It said in urban areas, food insecure households had shot from 74 000 to 179 000 while in rural areas the numbers had dramatically increased from 433 000 to 720 000.

The document says the spike in figures was because the lockdown had resulted in the closing of non-essential services.
The document says medium, small and micro enterprises (MSMEs) were suffering the most during the lockdown.

This has already led to retrenchments and cash-flow problems that may lead to permanent closure of many businesses after the lockdown is lifted if measures are not taken to support businesses.
“Abrupt lockdowns across the globe and in the region have caused the flow of imports, including essential consumer goods from South Africa to be disrupted and prices of food and essential goods seem to escalate very quickly,” the document reads.

The Covid-19, the policy document says, was already having a major impact on Lesotho’s already fragile socioeconomic landscape.
“In general, the pandemic upsets development through broken global value chains, foreign financial flows, domestic capital (both) human and capital, and transport and tourism,” it reads.

It says the broken global value chains affect the textile and apparel industry that employs about 45 000 people.

Prime Minister Thomas Thabane this week said factory workers will receive an M800 subsidy during the lockdown.
“On tourism, Lesotho had more than 1.1 million international tourists with total receipts of US$24 million (about M432 million) in 2018,” the policy document reads.

“The numbers will decline significantly.”
It also says financial flows through workers’ remittances will decline because of a slowdown in economic activities outside Lesotho.
The Lesotho Economy Profile 2019 says Lesotho relies on South Africa for much of its economic activity.

“Lesotho imports 85 percent of the goods it consumes from South Africa, including most agricultural inputs,” the profile says.
“Households depend heavily on remittances from family members working in South Africa in mines, on farms, and as domestic workers, though mining employment has declined substantially since the 1990s,” it says.

The government resolved to protect vulnerable groups such as children, women, people with disabilities, the elderly and the informal sector.
Meanwhile, 19 women and young girls and a boy have been raped during the Covid-19 lockdown, according to Gender Minister Dr Mahali Phamotse.
The boy, only aged six years, was sodomised, Dr Phamotse said.

The raped women and girls include a five-year-old girl while the eldest woman was 55-years-old.
In a statement on Monday, Dr Phamotse said she was very concerned with latest development which she blamed on the lockdown.
She said the lockdown, although holding the Covid-19 infection at bay, “is however bringing unpalatable results”.

Dr Phamotse said “men were stressed because they are not used to staying at home with their families”.
“I understand that during this time (of lockdown) stress can be severe and it is everyone’s responsibility to seek counselling to avoid raping or getting raped,” she said.

Dr Phamotse advised that people undergoing stress should use the Nokaneng App in their smart phones or send smses where they will find expert advice on about gender-based violence.

She said the reports, sent to her by the police’s Child and Gender Protection Unit (CGPU), may not reflect the complete picture because other cases were reported to chiefs and civil society organisations.

Staff Reporter

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