This week, model, actress and UNICEF UK supporter Rosie Huntington-Whiteley visited Lesotho to meet children and families affected by the worst drought in decades.
During her visit Rosie saw and heard how the two years of erratic rain and drought, combined with one of the most powerful El Nino events in 50 years, have wreaked havoc on the lives of those already left vulnerable by poverty and HIV. The government in Lesotho has declared a state of emergency and more than 530,000 people – one in four of the population – are estimated to be affected.
“From the moment I arrived in Lesotho it was immediately obvious just how much of an impact the drought is having on families here, many of who were already struggling with poverty and the effects of HIV. Already hugely vulnerable, these families are struggling to cope with the added burden brought by the lack of food and water” said Rosie.
Rosie travelled with Unicef, the world’s leading children’s organisation, to meet just some of the 26.5 million children across the region who are at risk from hunger, water shortages and disease. 1.2 million children are experiencing severe acute malnutrition – a condition from which few young children can recover if they do not receive immediate treatment.
During her trip to Lesotho, where 60% of the population live on less than $1.90 a day and life expectancy is just over 50 years, Rosie visited a health centre and met children suffering from malnutrition as well as meeting children and families affected by HIV. She saw how Unicef and partners are providing vital support including therapeutic food and milk for malnourished children and cash grants to support vulnerable families.
Rosie also spent time with children at the Unicef supported Sentebale youth club. Children at the youth club, some of who are HIV positive, use activities such as dance, drama, poetry and singing to discuss, explore and address the challenges they face, including those exacerbated by the drought and food crisis.
Rosie said: “Many of the families I met have literally nothing left. If the rains don’t come soon then the situation will become even more devastating. Children are going to bed hungry, night after night, week after week. For months now families have been doing everything they can to survive but the crisis only looks like it will get worse. One mother I met told me how even providing enough food for her daughter is a daily struggle.”
“Unicef is working tirelessly with the government and partners to keep children safe and reduce the impact of the drought but they simply do not have the resources needed. This crisis might not be on the news, but having seen the reality for children here I’d urge everyone to do what they can to support Unicef’s work for children, in Lesotho and across the region” Rosie added.
Unicef is working with governments and partners across Eastern and Southern Africa to reduce the impact of the drought and to provide life-saving humanitarian assistance, but urgently needs £170million in 2016. Currently, humanitarian aid is not keeping pace with the tremendous needs of children, with appeals across Eastern and Southern Africa less than half funded.