By ‘Maseipone Mokhethi
Maseru, Oct. 19 – “Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God”. This was the vision of a wise man known as Bob Pierce, the founding father and President of World Vision in 1950 -1967.
Little did the world know that a dream of one man in East Asia, who made contact and came face to face with an abandoned starving child, chose not to walk away and determined his last $5 from his pocket would change and impact positively the lives of millions of ailing children across 100 countries of the world including Lesotho, where world vision exist.
Bearing in mind the ‘Onion Theory’ concept of children, this narrative seeks to be a beacon of hope, awareness raising shedding light on subjects that matter most, safety and wellbeing of children and above all child hunger and malnutrition among others.
Today, many share similar sentiments with Pierce, from governments, United Nations family, Agencies, parastatals, non-governmental organisations, media physiques, armed forces and off course individuals and collectives.
The Cambridge University Press (CUP) points to bringing up a child in line with the Onion Theory’, otherwise onion – peeling which dictates the system of the self, both conscious and unconscious as counselling through systems of relationship with others or inner-world organisations that include family. Like an onion, children’s lives are said to reflect ‘layered shells’.
A metaphor of the ‘layered shell,’ as exposed when an onion is bisected by a plane that intersects the centre for the innermost is in a way all positivity and negativity children are exposed to when they grow, in another way, it is also a ‘patriotism slate’ conceived by the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) when it comes to otherwise ‘children of today’ who have recently turned out to be offenders known as ‘Manomoro’.
Speaking of the ‘patriotism slate’, LDF Commander, Lieutenant General Mojalefa Letsoela whose youth development programme established within the army has touched the lives of more than 700 youth across the country from 2021-to date is adamant that the army has knack to infuse patriotism among individuals when all has failed like in the case of ‘Manomoro’ at the time.
The Commander strongly warned parents and guardians to be mindful and cautious in raising children, as whatever children are exposed to from birth is in most cases what they become in future.
Attesting to the Commander’s opinion on one hand, the 2021 former boot camper LDF (name withheld for security purposes), “I grew up in a family of three, am the older brother to two siblings, my parents have all it takes, they would buy us all the nice things, from clothes to toys in fact hunger was never part of us. However, my family lacked love, I probably grew up as an attention seeker, hence waiting on the streets at night, snatching ladies bags and to some extent even stabbing some was part of fun, just to cause fights”. He said.
However, he is grateful to LDF for the development of the aforementioned programme which he said he became part of the first cohort in 2021, thus has not only been transformed behaviourally but spiritually and mentally.
On the other hand, a Teacher at Loretto Primary School, Mrs. ‘Mantepe Bebi told the Agency earlier this month, a seven-year-old child at the school collapsed during morning assembly, only to wake up later to tell teachers that he is hungry and has not eaten for the last two days as there was no food at home.
“His story is just a tip of an iceberg as there are hundreds and hundreds of orphaned children including those of single parents who struggle to have at least two meals per day as many have lost parents due to HIV/AIDS with Covid-19 having made matters worse in 2020-2021,” she grieved.
The teacher with keen interest in nutritional issues highlighted that as a means to preserve minerals and vitamins in food, she advised all to avoid peeling fruits and vegetables that can be eaten without being peeled such as potatoes and pumpkins so as to promote quality health.
On another issue, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs’) Agenda 2030 also taps into a number of goals targeting to improve the livelihoods of children, further aiming to end all forms of hunger and malnutrition, making sure all people especially children have sufficient and nutritious food all year. The said goals were extended by the United Nations assembly in 2015, after Lesotho was recorded among countries that had performed badly in alleviating goal number one relating to curbing extreme poverty and hunger.
However, the 2022 malnutrition data estimates among children under five have shown that globally, linear growth failure is the most common form of undernutrition with about 165 million children below five years affected, thus stunting has been identified as a major public priority.
In Lesotho, stunting rate still remains unacceptably high at 33.2 percent as according to World Food Programme (WFP) child malnutrition estimates for 2023 with Thaba -Tseka, Mokhotlong and Qacha’s Nek being the most affected. Over and above that, the estimates also show that of the population of 2.2 million, 57 percent of people live below poverty line while 508, 125 people are food insecure.
Meanwhile, the Ambassador of Lesotho to Italy, Chief Thesele ‘Maseribane told the Agency that following the 2023 World Food Forum (WFF) held in Italy this month (October 2023), he is adamant that King Letsie III as the Head of Lesotho and as African Union Nutrition Champion and FAO’s Special Ambassador for Nutrition can help Lesotho reverse the current state of hunger by 2030. “Let us go all out, engage in agricultural production individually and collectively as much as we can, feed our families and consider exporting to foreign countries”. He added.
The business sector through the voice of Mr. Samuel Mphana of Pick ‘n Pay commends all efforts geared towards promoting the rights of children in many areas. However, he expressed worry saying government is slow to support initiatives of this nature.
Further eyeing issues of children holistically, Reverend ‘Malijo Baji of AME said it is important that in raising children, all ought to pay attention to issues of protecting their human rights and enhancing their nutritional status, the need to pay attention to their spiritual wellbeing is key, as the start of it all is fearing the Word of God, all others shall be added. “We need to be fearful of God, the Maker of our lives and His Commandments, all of us must take charge in helping children become responsible and healthier citizens”.
Also speaking, Mr. Lebelo Maema, Initiation School Practitioner of Leribe said nurturing a Mosotho child goes along with taking huge responsibility, saying this type of schools formally grooms children bearing in mind elements of culture, thus ensure that not only are they able to mind their own rights but the rights of others as well.
In this manner, Advocate Lineo Tsikoane, a seasoned Human rights lawyer and Proponent strongly advised the government of Lesotho to reconsider when it comes to signing and ratification of treaties. “While I agree the country can sign as an acknowledgement but ratification makes the country bound to implementation and yet in Lesotho progress is often a bit stagnant”. She echoed adding these include sluggishness even in issues of children.
Meanwhile, the government of Lesotho has signed and ratified a number of international instruments which protect the rights of children, including the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) which was signed in 1990 and ratified in 1992.
Among others, the Constitution of Lesotho, UNCRC describes the child as a person under 18 years of age. The convention recognises the role of parents and the family in the care and protection of children, as well as the responsibility of the State to assist them carry out these obligations. The convention according to the UN consists of 41 articles, grouped under themes and yet still intended to address the rights of children in various means namely; survival, development, protection rights and participation rights and the bedrock for securing the additional rights in the UN Convention.
It remains clear that indeed Pierce was right after all, the hearts of all ought to be broken by the things that break the hearts of God who is the tree according to His Word while His people are the branches.