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MATSOKU, Lesotho –  The people of Matsoku in the rural highlands of Leribe district came out in droves when the United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA in Lesotho, in partnership with the Office of Her Majesty Queen ‘Masenate Mohato Seeiso, held a cross-generational discussion and initiative to support the elderly at Ha Makopela recently.

The highlight of the event was the presentation of blankets and maize meal to the elderly by Her Majesty the Queen and the UNFPA Representative, Therese Zeba Kobeane. The aim of the community discussion was to help bridge the gap between the elderly and youth in the area, focusing on the prevention of teenage pregnancy, HIV and maternal deaths.

The initiative was launched in Mokhotlong in 2015. Her Majesty Queen ‘Masenate Mohato Seeiso said Lesotho had been hard hit by the El Niño-induced drought, resulting in a poor harvest this year. This prompted the provision of maize meal to the elderly.

UNFPA Representative Therese Zeba Kobeane (far right) with Her Majesty Queen ‘Masenate Mohato Seeiso (centre) and the Principal Chief of Leribe, Joel Motšoene (left). © UNFPA Lesotho

The Queen reiterated the importance of the elderly to society as care givers and transferers of cultural knowledge. She expressed her appreciation to the partnership with UNFPA through its Representative Mrs. Zeba Kobeane: “We are truly grateful for your kind assistance and we hope that our partnership in similar initiatives will prosper. Let us continue to take care of the elderly, love them and respect them.”

Mrs. Zeba Kobeane said that HIV and maternal deaths are preventable but unfortunately young girls continue to be infected by HIV and young women continue dying when giving birth.

“As UNFPA, we advocate that the gap between elders and young people be closed. As the elders, youth are also facing life-threatening challenges. At each community level a constructive dialogue should then be established between the elders and youth. Your advice, coaching and guidance are highly expected and will help the young people to build a better life for themselves and a better future for their community,” she said.

She reiterated the importance of the elderly. UNFPA holds them in high regard and considers ageing as a triumph of development, she said.

By Violet Maraisane