Lesotho is a landlocked nation situated inside the borders of South Africa. After years of unstable political history, Lesotho witnessed its first peaceful transfer of power in June 2012 when Prime Minister Motsoahae Thomas Thabane took office. After credible parliamentary elections deemed credible by international and domestic observers, the nation’s first collation government was formed among four political parties.
The country’s population of over two million is burdened with chronic hunger with more than sixty percent of people living below the poverty line. Lesotho’s economy is primarily agrarian with little manufacturing or industry. Limited arable land and subsistence farming leave Lesotho vulnerable to food insecurity. Higher concentrations of poverty are found rural areas burdened by heavy rains and soil erosion.
Access to quality health care service delivery is a major hurdle. Lesotho has an HIV prevalence rate of 23 percent as well as high levels of malnutrition and tuberculosis. Long distances to health care facilities, insufficient infrastructure, lack of transportation, shortage of skilled workers and user fees at hospitals are barriers to attaining health care. With one out of thirty two women dying of pregnancy or child birth related causes, Lesotho suffers one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world. The high prevalence of HIV further exacerbates the problem as a large number of maternal deaths are due to HIV-related complications.
Gender equality remains an area of concern in Lesotho. Gender-based violence is widespread and most incidents of sexual assault and rape go unreported. Although many female-headed households result from men seeking work in South Africa, women’s rights are severely limited in terms of property inheritance and succession.