Dispatch from Bobete, Lesotho: So Remote, Yet Still Impacted by HIV

Photojournalist David Snyder is currently traveling throughout southern Africa on behalf of CRS. He writes from Lesotho:

No matter how often you travel to project sites around the world, you don’t often have trips like this one. I just got back from Bobete, which will be even more unknown to most people than Maseru, the city I am in now, or Lesotho, the country of which Maseru is the capital. Lesotho is a tiny country, completely within the national boundaries of the country of South Africa, one of only three countries I can think of offhand that are so situated (Swaziland and Vatican City are the only others I can think of).

Keyhole gardens are designed to make it easier for people weakened by HIV and AIDS to tend their crops. Photo by CRS staff.
Keyhole gardens are designed to make it easier for people weakened by HIV and AIDS to tend their crops. Photo by CRS staff.

Like all countries in southern Africa, Lesotho is being ravaged by the AIDS pandemic: 23 percent of Lesotho’s 1.8 million inhabitants are HIV-positive and 180,000 children are orphaned, 10 percent of the entire population. CRS is working to help orphans and vulnerable children, providing psychosocial support, education support and nutritional support through small plots known as keyhole gardens. It’s the first time I’ve seen them — small, rock circles filled with layers of earth and stones, irrigated by wastewater and fertilized with manure.

But where CRS is working is almost as interesting as what it’s doing. To get to Bobete, a collection of 53 villages high up in the mountains of central Lesotho (80 percent of Lesotho is higher than 4,500 feet in elevation), you take a small Cessna aircraft to a dirt landing strip outside of the Bobete clinic, its name spelled out in large white-painted rocks on the ground outside. Outside of the clinic, there is no running water and no electricity. When you spend even a day in such places you are reminded of how most of Africa lives — your hours regulated by the rising and setting of the sun, the nights defined by the barking of stray dogs, the mornings ushered in with a cloud of cooking- fire smoke.

That such a place, so remote, has not escaped the impact of HIV is a tiny indicator of the scale of the pandemic here. Though Bobete is so remote that the easiest way to reach it is by air, 30 percent of the area’s population is HIV-positive. Those left behind are carrying on, even — or perhaps especially — in the mountains of Lesotho.

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2 Responses to “Dispatch from Bobete, Lesotho: So Remote, Yet Still Impacted by HIV”

  1. Gail Freeman Says:

    I am interested in learning how to volunteer in Africa, especially with orphans, might you send me some information.

  2. Larry Blouin Says:

    I spent 4 yrs in Lesotho as a teacher mostly in Roma and Maseru. Have never heard of the place that you mentioned. No one ever spoke to me about it or ever refered to it. Just goes to show you that not all areas are known to all who are missionaries there.

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