Sepolo Mofelehetsi, Lesotho Red Cross
Life has not been easy for 71-year-old ‘Mamocapha Ts’oeunyane since her daughter died in August 2000. Today, she has to face the hardship of looking after her four orphaned grandchildren.
“My daughter’s husband died in 1998 and soon after his death my daughter and her children had to move in with me because she was very sick,” she explains. She sits on a veranda with her six-year-old grandson Motlatsi curled up on her lap at her house at Ha-Khoabane in Thaba-Bosiu.
Mamocapha says that before her daughter died, she complained of terrible chest pains and that she had similar symptoms those her husband had before his death. Even though she does not know much about “this new disease, called HIV and AIDS”, she suspects that they both died of it.
She has seen many days in this world and now her bones are weak with age, yet she is forced to work her small vegetable garden. This is the only source of food for Ts’oeunyane and her four orphaned grandchildren. She has two fields, but this year they are not ploughed because she did not have the money to buy seeds.
However, she is beginning to see some light at the end of the tunnel. She is surprised to receive visitors from the Lesotho Red Cross Society and a team from the Norwegian Red Cross. She rarely receives visitors apart from the Lesotho Red Cross volunteers.
The Secretary General of the Lesotho Red Cross, Mrs Ntharetso Lieta had brought Motlatsi some clothes. The shy little boy puts on his new pair of shoes and jacket. He is happy in his new clothing and cannot stop looking at himself.
“I am so grateful to the Red Cross for helping us,” says Ts’oeunyane. “This is a miracle as we never thought it would happen to us.”
The old grandmother cannot afford to buy her grandchildren new clothes. Many people of her age and other orphaned children survive through the support of the Lesotho Red Cross, but sometimes resources do not meet the demand.
The country is still trying to recover from two consecutive years of severe drought which left many people relying on aid. This situation has been worsened by overgrazing, soil erosion and soil exhaustion.
For people like Ts’oeunyane, the situation becomes more worrying.
Like many other countries in Southern Africa, Lesotho has a serious HIV/AIDS epidemic with many of its people living with the disease. In response to this, Lesotho Red Cross Society is running integrated home-base care projects in four districts of Berea, Leribe, Mafeteng and Maseru.
Through the support of the Norwegian Red Cross, plans are underway to launch another integrated community home-based orphan care project in Maseru in ten villages of the Thaba-Bosiu area.
And Ts’oeunyane’s orphaned grandchildren are amongst the 200 orphans and vulnerable children who will be assisted with food, school uniforms, fees, books, clothing and psychological support from the project.