Thursday, October 25, 2012

Strength in Numbers

Over the past six weeks TTL’s Outreach team has been partnering with thirty-six Village Health Workers (VHWs) to hold site visits in the Libibing area of Mokhotlong district. At site visits, Outreach staff work alongside community-appointed VHWs to assess the health of children from a few specific rural villages. In many cases, these villages never see service providers but rather community members must travel long-distances by foot to reach an under-staffed and under-resourced rural clinic. 

Outreach workers coach VHWs to measure children’s height and middle-upper arm circumference, along with weight, to get a more comprehensive assessment of a child’s nutritional status. Alongside the training session, these site visits present an important opportunity to identify any children who require TTL’s support. Following the site visits VHWs will be able to continue to make referrals to TTL, working as our ‘eyes and ears’ on the ground. 

TTL's Outreach Coordinator teaches Libibing VHWs how to used a MUAC strip at a group training session

The results of these recent site visits have strongly illustrated the challenges Basotho families are currently facing in light of Lesotho’s food crisis. At one single site visit, representing three VHWs' communities, eleven babies were so malnourished that they required TTL’s support.  Luckily, none of these children presented symptoms deemed critical enough to require them to come to the safe-home. Rather, through the Outreach Program’s support, TTL will work to get them back on track while they remain at home with their caregivers.

Yesterday’s site visit was different, one new child has been brought to the safe-home. This baby girl looks only a few months old – smaller than even our small safe-home eight month old babies – but her Bukana says she’s 14 months. There’s not a millimeter of baby fat under all those of layers of clothing, this little one weighs only 5.3­ kg.

Without the Village Health Worker network, TTL may never have learned about this child, or the eleven who have recently joined the Outreach program. Or, we may have heard about them in a few months time when they were much more critical and getting them back on track towards recovery would be an even greater struggle. This is the strength of the Village Health Worker Program. More ‘eyes and ears’ on the ground and earlier identification means more vulnerable babies will receive the assistance they need so they not only survive but can eventually thrive within their own communities.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

World Food Day

Yesterday, people around the globe celebrated World Food Day. This day was an opportunity to bring attention to food issues in countries on every continent. Many of you may have received the below email asking for your support as Lesotho faces an increasing food crisis. If you haven't had a chance, please take a moment to learn how you can help.

Dear Supporter –

When I lift 3-year-old Mamello into my arms, I am struck by the hardness of her little body. Her severe malnutrition is readily apparent. And just like every time I see a child come to the safe-home looking like this—feeling like this—my mind swims with unanswered questions.

But no level of intellectual understanding will ever stop the visceral reaction I feel when seeing a child suffering this way. I will never get used to the feeling of a hard bony chest, arms and legs so thin it seems they might snap at any moment, skin drawn tight across cheekbones, not an ounce of baby fat to be found.

Mamello when she arrive at TTL.

In this small mountain kingdom, this image represents the severe state of malnutrition seen in far too many babies and children. Sadly, this number is likely to increase as Lesotho faces mounting food insecurity.

On August 9th, in a call to the world that Lesotho and its people are in crisis, the Prime Minister of Lesotho declared a state of food emergency. After two seasons of failed harvest, due to destructive floods one year and a severe drought the next, it is estimated that the people of Lesotho will have less than 10 percent of the staple crops they will need to sustain them in the coming year.

In his declaration, the Prime Minister stressed that orphans and vulnerable children, as well as people living with HIV/AIDS, would suffer the most from this crisis. As these are the precise populations that TTL works with, we know that the need for our services will only grow greater in the coming months.

Mamello after a few months of intensive recovery.

We are asking for your assistance to make sure we can meet this pressing need. The children of Lesotho face myriad challenges that TTL works tirelessly to mitigate, and in turn we cannot do this work without your tireless support.


Julie Wheaton
TTLF Fellow

Thursday, October 11, 2012

International Day of the Girl

“This is a day to celebrate the fact that it is girls who will change the world; that the empowerment of girls holds the key to development and security for families, communities and societies worldwide” 
-Desmond Tutu and Ela Bhatt, members of the Elders

The United Nations has declared today, October 11th, the first International Day of the Girl Child. 

For those of you who have spent time around TTL, or may have realised from our website and blog, TTL is a very female friendly place. Over eighty percent of our staff are female (including management) and because of the nature of child rearing in Lesotho, so are the vast majority of the caregivers we work with.

And it turns out, TTL isn’t an oddity. Its female staff are just some of the many across Lesotho who have been able to acquire an education and find employment. Across a number of indicators ranging from access to health services to representation in the government, Lesotho demonstrates strong levels of gender equality. In fact, it has been amongst the top ten countries in the world in terms of gender parity for the last three years running. Its global gender gap rating puts it ahead of the US, Canada, the UK and all of its regional African neighbours. For a country that is so often associated with poverty and stalled development, it’s nice to know that Lesotho is a leader for its neighbours in trying to ensure that girls have as many opportunities as boys while growing up.

The International Day of the Girl Child marks an important chance to recognise the progress Lesotho has made, as well as the challenges it still faces. Unfortunately, HIV/AIDS continues to disproportionately affect girls and women – reflected in higher infections rates as well as the burden of caring for gravely ill family members or the infant children they leave behind. Sexual violence and coercion, traditional beliefs about masculinity, and unequal gender relations all continue to fuel the HIV epidemic.

The devastating consequences HIV/AIDS has had on household structures and the ongoing pressures of poverty combined  with community expectations for women to fill specific domestic roles means that girls may end up leaving school earlier than they should. I can think of a handful of cases from TTL’s recent history where we have stepped in to help a family care for an infant child to alleviate the burden on a teenage girl left to run a household or try to keep a girl in school for a little bit longer following the death of a main caregiver.

But all in all, while there is still progress to be made (as there is in every country in the world), Lesotho’s not such a bad place to be a girl. Each one of these TTL baby girls below will get to grow up in a country where both boys and girls receive free primary school and women can be caregivers, factory workers, village chiefs, Managing Directors of NGOs, or Ministers in the Government.