THE Ministry of Social Development says some parents and guardians are complicit in forcing thousands of vulnerable children into commercial sex work.
The ministry’s Principal Secretary ‘Mamakhaola Qhobela said this during a ceremony in Maseru where Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) commander Lieutenant-General Khoantle Motšomotšo handed over Christmas presents to 96 families, an orphanage as well as 15 children with special needs.
Ms Qhobela said at least 360 000 orphaned and vulnerable children needed protection from different kinds of potentially abusive situations including trafficking. She said of these, 85 000 were double orphans without both parents.
“While it may be natural that most parents may want their children to grow up strong, confident and free; and may wish to provide everything possible to comfort their children so that they can grow in an environment that supports adequate child development, unfortunately this is not the case with some parents and children in Lesotho and worldwide,” Ms Qhobela said.
“In addition to a home with loving parents, children need provisions such as medication, food, clothing, blankets, housing and protection from dangers and abuse,” she said, adding, the problem of child vulnerability was increasing at an alarming rate despite government’s efforts to address it.
“As such the children try to survive by begging in the streets while others may be forced into prostitution by human traffickers. Sadly sometimes even parents play a role in selling them to traffickers or pushing them into early marriage.”
She said the needs and demands of girl children in particular, increased as they grew and developed and where these were not met, they were exposed to various forms of vulnerability.
She said vulnerable children did not have adequate and decent clothes to protect them from the elements of nature and to help them feel socially acceptable.
She expressed gratitude to “all army officers for their continued support and desire to contribute towards the improvement of the poor and the lives of vulnerable children in Lesotho,” adding the recipients had been identified and accessed by qualified personnel from her ministry.
For his part, LDF commander Lieutenant Motšomotšo said the army spent M130 000 on the Christmas presents which ranged from grocery, clothes, school uniforms and shoes.
“We used proceeds of the countrywide concerts held by the army band from the beginning of the year to buy the presents,” Lt Gen Motšomotšo said, adding the programme to assist the vulnerable children ahead of Christmas holidays was now in its 13th year.
He thanked the public for supporting the army band during the countrywide concerts.