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From Royal Plea to Quthing’s Plight: Lesotho’s King Urges Greater International Support in Battling Climate Change

5 January 2024 by Pascalinah Kabi

 Est Read Time: 5 min(s) 1 sec(s)

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A Quthing house was destroyed by strong winds in December 2023. Credit: Facebook User.

As Mpiti Lebesele Letsie, a seasoned radio presenter at Seaka FM in Quthing, gazed through the window, an ordinary afternoon transformed into a scene of chaos and destruction.

Just few days before Christmas of 2023, at approximately 4 pm, a gentle breeze began to waft through Quthing district, Lesotho, subtly heralding the onset of an unexpected and devastating calamity.

Within half an hour, the wind, now a raging tempest, unleashed its fury, uprooting small shacks and sending them swirling into the sky like leaves in a whirlwind.

From his vantage point, Letsie bore witness to a surreal devastation. Chicken coops were the first casualties, their fragile structures crumbling under the storm’s might.

Then, a more harrowing scene unfolded: the roofing of his neighbour’s house began to peel away, piece by piece, as if in slow motion.

Rental homes, once shelters of safety, were now vulnerable, their roofs torn away, leaving nothing but the open sky above.

Climate vulnerability

Three years ago, the World Bank Group unveiled Lesotho’s Climate Risk Country Profile. This document serves as a valuable tool, offering in-depth insights into the nation’s climate-related challenges.

Its purpose is to facilitate a deeper understanding of the current climate issues, assist in policy discussions, and aid in strategic future planning. The profile provides an analysis of climate trends, the potential impact on various sectors, existing policies and programs, necessary adaptations, and recommendations for proactive measures.

In this report, the World Bank highlights that Lesotho is significantly impacted by climate change. The country’s vulnerability is largely due to its geographical layout and the lifestyle of its residents, particularly those in rural areas.

Events such as the severe winds that damaged properties in Quthing last December highlight the sort of challenges Lesotho is facing. These incidents underscore Lesotho’s need for focused strategies to cope with climate change effects.

The necessity for increased attention and support for Lesotho and its African counterparts is evident: they need significant funding to tackle climate change issues, despite their minimal historical contribution to carbon emissions.

Two years ago, negotiations involving nearly 200 countries led to an important agreement on climate damage payments. This pact, grounded in the principle of climate justice, calls for financial aid to be given to countries or communities severely impacted by the detrimental effects of climate change.

Pay the money!

On January 1, 2024, the monarch of Lesotho, His Majesty King Letsie III, expressed hope that wealthier nations would fulfill their financial commitments for climate efforts in Africa.

“Fellow Basotho, it is crucial for us to acknowledge that we will consistently confront the challenges of climate change year after year, even daily. In early December, I represented Lesotho and Basotho at the largest climate change conference hosted by the United Arab Emirates,” stated King Letsie III in a state radio broadcast.

He informed the Basotho nation that the Conference of Parties (COP) is an assembly of government leaders and major organisations, focused on discussing and advising on climate issues.

“The primary objective of this meeting was to identify the best possible solutions for mitigating the effects of climate change,” he said.

King Letsie III noted that during this conference, Lesotho and other developing countries strongly urged affluent nations to keep their promises of supporting developing countries in the climate crisis.

“We remain optimistic that the plea from developing nations has resonated, and that rich countries will escalate their assistance to enable us to effectively mitigate and reduce the impact of climate change,” he emphasised.

Battered homes.

Back in Quthing, radio presenter Mpiti Lebesele Letsie helplessly watched as a fierce windstorm ravaged his surroundings, its destructive force seemingly unending.

The storm continued relentlessly, leaving a swath of destruction across homes and businesses. Then, suddenly, the wind was replaced by a heavy downpour, intensifying the chaos.

After the storm eased, Letsie and his neighbours stepped out from their damaged shelters. Shock and disbelief united the community as they started to evaluate the damage.

“The roofing of my three rental rooms were severely damaged, and a fourth completely collapsed. The storm had not discriminated in its path – businesses, homes, and dreams lay fractured in its wake,” Letsie shared with Uncensored News on January 4, 2024.

‘Malerato Boi, a 60-year-old resident of Liphakoeng, Ha Koali, lives with her nine-member family, including children and grandchildren.

Last December, her home was among those devastated when powerful winds tore through Quthing, affecting many families and businesses. This incident marked the third time in ten years that Boi’s home was destroyed by extreme weather.

Initially, heavy snowfall had collapsed the roof of her six-room house. “I sold three sheep to buy new building materials and pay for labour,” Boi recounted to Uncensored News.

A few years later, a destructive hailstorm in 2018 forced her to sell a cow for repairs. Last December, her home was again badly damaged.

Hysterical cries

Destroyed rented homes in Quthing. Credit: Facebook.

“It was on Friday. We were at a mourning house to receive the remains of the deceased at Pontšeng. Suddenly, dark clouds gathered, and a severe storm hit. Then, it started raining, and there was a hailstorm,” Boi recounted during a phone interview with Uncensored News.

As the mourners took shelter, the hailstorm ripped through the roof of the mourning house. This prompted Boi to call home to check if her own house had been affected. Initially, she couldn’t get a clear answer. Later, her daughter, who had left work early to inspect their home, informed her of the damage.

“She told me that the roofs of three of the six rooms were completely destroyed. I rushed home. When I saw my house, I cried bitterly, like someone mourning a loved one,” Boi shared.

Today, the damaged portion of Boi’s house remains unrepaired due to financial constraints. “I have one cow that I could sell, but finding a buyer is really difficult,” she explained.

This damage has forced all nine members of the Boi family to crowd into the remaining three rooms.

“It’s tough, but we’re getting by. What else can we do but accept our situation? Sometimes I wonder what I did to deserve this,” Boi concluded.

Government intervenes in crisis.

Situated many kilometres from Boi’s residence, Rothe faced its own calamity when heavy rains in October 2023 devastated 12 homes.

This disaster prompted Prime Minister Samuel Matekane’s government to allocate M4.5 million for rebuilding efforts across several districts: 75 homes in the Maseru district, 65 in Mafeteng, and 13 in Thaba-Tseka.

As reported by Metro, Matekane acknowledged that Lesotho, like many other countries, is grappling with climate change-induced extremes such as droughts, storms, and floods.

The Prime Minister emphasised the government’s response to the Rothe catastrophe, noting the area’s significant challenges.

Matekane assured the affected families, “Each family will receive a newly constructed two-room house.”

However, he clarified that due to limited resources, the government’s immediate response could not extend to all affected individuals.

“We are committed to assisting those most impacted,” he stated, adding that additional support would be provided to others once the government stabilises financially.

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