[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the
MASERU, 5 Apr 2006 (IRIN/PLUSNEWS) - A rapidly increasing
population of orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) in Lesotho
has forced the government and NGOs to draw up guidelines for
The 'Residential Care for Vulnerable Children and Youth
Guidelines and Standards' was "critical" to ensuring the safety
of OVC at the hands of their caregivers, said Bertrand
Duemollins, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) resident
representative in Lesotho.
"The roadmap is now set; we now envisage a strong coordination
and increased support to ensure that all places of safety will be
able to implement these new standards."
Lesotho is one of six countries in Southern Africa suffering a
humanitarian crisis driven by drought, poverty, unemployment and
HIV/AIDS. According to recent statistics, the country has about
180,000 OVC, of which 100,000 are AIDS orphans. With an HIV
prevalence rate of 23.2 percent, the number of OVC is set to
"There are many registered organisations around that offer
shelter, care and support to the OVC. Unfortunately, in some of
these centres, children are abused," said Limakatso Chisepo,
director of the department of social welfare.
The guidelines seek to protect the rights of all OVC, and those
orphaned by HIV/AIDS from stigma; create a culture of assuming
responsibility for the care of OVC by families and communities;
and address the unregulated removal of children from the streets
or abusive homes, which often occurred in the absence of social
"Given the vulnerability of children growing up without parental
care, these children, especially girls, drop out of school," the
guidelines observed. "Because of the stigma attached to HIV/AIDS,
the children are discriminated against and get excluded from
accessing basic services such as education, in addition to
suffering abuse and exploitation. Some are being denied their
According to Lesotho's First Lady, Mathato Mosisili, who has been
advocating for the care of OVC, "In the Sesotho context, an
orphan is everybody's responsibility; a needy person is the
chief's child," but also noted that, unfortunately, the tradition
of looking after the destitute no longer existed.
UNICEF's Social Policy Officer, Sefora Makepa-Tsiu, said once the
guidelines had been adopted by the cabinet, the UN agency would
help to facilitate their rollout and build capacity in the number
of caregivers and law enforcement personnel.