THE United States government, through its US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), on Tuesday awarded eight local organisations with grants worth $142 000 (about M2 million) at the American embassy in Maseru.
The PEPFAR Small Grants programme caters for community-initiated projects which aim to strengthen health service delivery in communities affected by HIV/AIDS. It supports community groups which support orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) and community-based HIV/ AIDS care initiatives.
The beneficiaries include Falimehang Ha Motlokoa Support Group from Leribe which received $15 300, Ikhetheng Basali Support Group from Berea ($8 000), Mohatlane Community Education Centre from Berea ($22 540), Nalane from Maseru ($25 000), The Special Support Group from Leribe ($19 500), Thusanang Bophelong Support Group from Leribe ($22 900), Tiisetsang Support Group from Mohale’s Hoek ($18 300) and Young Matsekha Against AIDS from Berea ($11 080).
In his address, US Ambassador to Lesotho Mathew Harrington said the funding would go a long way towards supporting people living with HIV/AIDS and OVC in communities across the country.
“Through these projects, group members will have better resources and improved skills to care for each other and the vulnerable members of their community affected by this tragic epidemic,” Ambassador Harrington said.
Each year, he said, the PEPFAR team sets aside $150 000 to support communities through its small grants programme.
“This programme helps local communities and organisations strengthen the care and support they provide to HIV/AIDS patients and to families affected by the disease,” said Ambassador Harrington.
“The competition for funding from the PEPFAR Small Grants programme was fierce this year. We received 60 applications, and through careful review and consideration, we narrowed it down to only the top eight projects.”
He said the grants were not blank checks and urged the beneficiaries to use them wisely.
“The funding for PEPFAR Small Grants Program has been made possible by the generosity of the American people, and one of my most important responsibilities is making sure that the American people’s assistance is well spent and has a positive impact,” the ambassador said.
For her part, Lesotho Network of AIDS Services Organizations (LENASO) Executive Director Mamello Makoae said when the first case of HIV was discovered in Lesotho in 1986, there was no clear understanding of the disease.
“There was no treatment in this country and the disease was spreading so fast with health facilities full of patients who could only be treated for opportunistic infections and die,” she said.
Support groups, Ms Makoae said, were established to provide home-based care.
“At that time, they were not even trained to do the work, they never had any resources to do the work. They even improvised to use plastic bags as gloves, but the commitment, the passion to support each other remained unchallenged,” she said.
“Some died because they were taking care of others without proper precautions but this never stopped them from caring for their neighbors, their relatives and friends.”