Your Excellency, Minister 'Matebatso Doti, it is an honour for us to have you here with us for this media brunch, the first one in a long time. We have all gone through months of uncertainty and anxiety, and I would like to start by expressing my condolences to all the Basotho families who have lost loved ones to this pandemic, and to wish those who are still sick from the virus as speedy recovery. I would also like to commend all those who, either through their work in various institutions or through their personal behaviour and adherence to the new sanitary standards, have contributed to containing the spread of the virus.
I assume that we are all happy about the latest relaxation of restrictions, but at the same time, we have to continue to be cautious and do our utmost to break the chains of transmission. COVID-19 is still with us, and sadly, it looks like it will stay with us for a long time. For this reason, I kindly ask you to keep your facemasks on during this briefing, except for those who are speaking.
I am happy that so many of you have come to attend this briefing – your presence is testimony to the important work we are doing together with the Ministry of Social Development, the Disaster Management Authority, and various United Nations Agencies.
Your Excellency, ladies and gentlemen, the European Union and its member states contribute to the Global Fund to fight HIV, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and it has thus indirectly provided funding of an amount of roughly 30 M€ to Lesotho's health system for the period between 2020 and 2022. The EU has also made a special contribution of 113.5 M€ to the global funding of WHO to assist in the fight against COVID-19 in various countries around the world. But apart from these indirect contributions, the EU Delegation to the Kingdom of Lesotho has taken a deliberate decision not to get involved in the health aspects of national efforts to contain the virus and to cure the sick, because we felt that there are other international partners who are better placed to do so, because they have been working since long with Lesotho's health authorities. We decided that we should focus on helping alleviate the socio-economic hardships imposed on Basotho citizens by the pandemic as well as by the necessary lockdown. We are aware that people in urban and peri-urban areas who lost their jobs or businesses have been particularly hard hit, and we want to contribute to mitigating their suffering as a consequence of the pandemic.
In the past, the European Union has partnered with the Ministry for Social Development and UNICEF to set up the National Information System for Social Assistance (NISSA), but it was left to the government to finance social grants through its national budget. Due to the pandemic, the EU has exceptionally agreed to contribute to the social grants as well, with an amount of 5.5 M€, which is close to 110 million Maloti. An additional 4.8 M€ will has been mobilised for Lesotho through ECHO, the EU's humanitarian office, and this will be implemented through three UN agencies, FAO, IOM and WFP, as well as through World Vision.
Your Excellency, Minister Doti, your colleagues, and my colleagues from my team and from the United Nations will explain in detail how these contributions will be used.