THE Botswana government has donated 60 tonnes of food aid to Lesotho as part of efforts to alleviate the food insecurity caused by the prevailing drought.
The food items, which include beef, cooking oil, samp, sorghum meal, maize meal, milk and beans, were handed over to government on Tuesday by Botswana High Commissioner to Lesotho, Zenene Sinombe.
In his remarks during the ceremony held in Maseru, Ambassador Sinombe said the gesture was in response to Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s declaration of a state of emergency last December and plea to development partners and friends of Lesotho to assist in drought-relief efforts.
Lesotho is currently experiencing its worst drought in four decades as a result of El Niño – a periodic climatic phenomenon characterised by inadequate rain in some parts of the world and floods in others.
“It is against this backdrop that the government of Botswana has sent me here to deliver this food aid towards the protection of livelihoods,” said Ambassador Sinombe.
“As a member of SADC (Southern African Development Community), Botswana recognises that access to adequate food is a fundamental requirement for human well-being. We believe that a healthy, well-fed nation is better equipped to build for a better future.”
He also lauded the government for committing M155 million towards the drought relief programme.
“I recognise the strong political determination the right honourable prime minister and his cabinet have displayed in mitigating the effects of the drought,” Ambassador Sinombe said.
“The commitment of M155 million and other national resources towards operationalising the response plan is a commendable development.”
He added: “In restoring a life of dignity to the approximately half-a-million Basotho who find themselves susceptible to climate shocks and crises, kindly receive the goods I bring as Botswana’s modest contribution to your efforts for vigorous and positive action towards assisting food-insecure households.”
On his part, Foreign Affairs and International Relations Minister, Tlohang Sekhamane, said the donation spoke volumes about the relationship between the two countries.
“This event marks the very first response to the appeal for humanitarian assistance by a sister country, and guess what? It had to be Botswana!” Mr Sekhamane said.
“In fact, this is not the first time that Botswana has responded with vigour to our call for help due to the adverse effects of drought.
“For instance, last year, 12 trucks full of food aid were dispatched by the government of Botswana to the Kingdom of Lesotho in response to our call for assistance. It speaks volumes about the relationship that exists between the two countries and their people.”
The minister further said the food would be distributed to vulnerable communities around the country.
“I am reliably informed that 464 000 people are currently at risk of food insecurity countrywide, and that it will require well over M500 million to alleviate the challenge. This donation will go a long way in augmenting our efforts to cope with this difficult situation,” said Mr Sekhamane.