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A vision of hope for needy communities

by Lesotho Times
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World Vision National Director Ms Pauline Okumu

World Vision National Director Ms Pauline Okumu

 Makhopotso Mothusi

World Vision International is known for its unique approach to development issues, particularly those which seek to alleviate the suffering of less-fortunate members of society.

A global Christian relief, development and advocacy organisation dedicated to working with the most vulnerable children, families and communities and helping them overcome poverty and injustice, the Lesotho office has made every effort possible to live up to this vision through various initiatives.

But with Lesotho facing several social challenges, among them a high HIV-prevalence which at 23 percent is the second-highest in the world, as well as a crippling drought—the country’s worst in 40 years— World Vision National Director, Ms Pauline Okumu, is very much aware of the daunting task that lies ahead for her organisation in its quest to help alleviate the suffering of Basotho.

Over the last two years, World Vision Lesotho has helped enhance the lives of vulnerable communities through Savings Group Schemes launched in many parts of the country, but according to Ms Okumu, the organization has since changed its strategies to meet the challenges increased by the El Niño-induced drought.

“We have launched our new strategy for 2016-2020 which seeks to significantly contribute to improved and sustained wellbeing of the most vulnerable 550,000 boys and girls this year, improve the resilience of households usually affected by weather-shocks through environmental management activities, support the development of early childhood care and development, and introduce new multi-focused HIV and AIDS programmes,” says Ms Okumu.

She further says different approaches to her organisation’s programming would build on achievements realised over the years.

In education, World Vision seeks to focus on developing areas that would help improve quality, including building the capacity of preschool teachers and supporting the formation and empowerment of primary school parents and teachers committees, Ms Okumu noted.

“We believe if we can stimulate the development of citizens’ voice and action, and have parents and communities understand they have a major role to play in supporting the education of their children, this can contribute to addressing various challenges in schools as well as improving the quality of education,” says Ms Okumu, adding World Vision would also help source learning material for schools.

“We are an organisation motivated by results and always strive to multiply our achievements to show that we are improving.”

One area that has seen World Vision Lesotho take a drastic shift is in its HIV and AIDS programmes. Ms Okumu strongly believes Lesotho has done so much over the years to arrest the stubborn epidemic but says the momentum was lost “somewhere along the way” hence the need for renewal.

“The fight has taken many years and somewhere along the way, the momentum was lost. We need to rebuild the momentum and analyse our focus over the past years to see if we should maybe change direction. We are aware there are some areas we might not have paid much attention to with regards to the fight. World Vision does not have all the answers but we would like to lead a series of well-focused HIV-preventive dialogues that will examine the manner in which we have been fighting the pandemic and collectively select the tools to use to solidify prevention,” Ms Okumu says.

Cultural practices, enforcement of legislation that promotes responsible  HIV- preventive behaviour, well-targeted HIV-education and messaging and the inclusion of high-profile personalities to become the central voice in communities, among others, could strengthen the fight against the disease, Ms Okumu adds.

“Over the years, we seem to have neglected some vulnerable groups in our fight. We need to keep students in schools and prevent teenage pregnancies, which means we should all work on improving how we communicate various issues, including encouraging self-value and abstinence. We also know HIV-prevalence is very high in people aged between 30 and 39 years, and stands at 40 percent. This raises the red flag and is more concerning because we know how this will affect the bigger socio-economic sphere.”

According to Ms Okumu, World Vision Lesotho would work with the government and other partners in developing and implementing innovations which could contribute towards addressing the underlying factors fueling new HIV infections.

World Vision Lesotho was established in 1987. The organisation depended entirely on child sponsorship funds for its operations until 2002 during a drought emergency, when it started to receive grants from private donors to implement relief and livelihood recovery.

The organisation has improved the lives of thousands of poor families and continues to strive for a poverty-free Lesotho.

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