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UNFPA Regional Director for ESAR on Mission to Advance the ICPD Agenda

The buildup to the upcoming International   Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) Nairobi Summit on ICPD25:  Accelerating the Promise to be held in Nairobi reached fever pitch in the Kingdom of Lesotho when UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund Regional Director for East and Southern Africa Region (ESAR) Dr Julitta Onabanjo visited the Kingdom on 1-2 August, 2019.

The highlight of the Regional Director’s two-day mission was a meeting with King Letsie III where Dr Onabanjo conveyed an invitation, from UNFPA’s Executive Director Dr Natalia Kanem, to the King, to participate in the upcoming high level summit. The King has been invited to the summit as an African Union Nutrition Champion and also as the Head of State for the Kingdom of Lesotho

 Dr Onabanjo was accompanied by UNFPA Representative to Lesotho Dr Marc Derveeuw and Officer in Charge in the Resident Coordinator's Office Ms Mary Njoroge.

Speaking after the meeting, Dr Onabanjo explained that her mission to Lesotho was to speak to the country’s leadership about the upcoming ICPD25 conference to be held on the 12-14 November, 2019 in Nairobi, Kenya, which marks the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the landmark ICPD Programme of Action by 179 governments and other stakeholders in Cairo, Egypt in 1994.

“Twenty-five years after the Cairo conference, the world has opportunity to review progress and recommit to the unfinished agenda whilst still positioning Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) high on the agenda.”

“Unless sexual and reproductive health needs of people are met, we will not be able to achieve what we had intended to,” stated the Regional Director, who also emphasized the pertinence for tracking the unfinished agenda ahead of the summit

Whilst in Lesotho, Dr Julitta Onabanjo, paid a courtesy visit to the Hon Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr Lesego Makgothi. She congratulated the Kingdom of Lesotho for being one of the countries which for the first time presented their Voluntary National Review at the United Nations High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) in July this year.

The Voluntary National Reviews constitute a key component of the follow-up and review architecture of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

The Regional Director also presented to the Foreign Minister a commitment by young people in Lesotho on accelerating the ICPD agenda. “Young people in the Kingdom of Lesotho have been the first in the continent to commit to accelerating the ICPD agenda. They want to reverse the rates of unwanted pregnancies, HIV infections and maternal deaths which mainly affect young females.”

 She therefore called upon the Kingdom of Lesotho to come up with a national commitment on  accelerating the ICPD agenda ahead of the November Nairobi Summit.

Hon Makgothi thanked the Regional Director for personally delivering the invitation for the country’s participation in the summit, to be co-convened by the Governments of Kenya and Denmark.

“I look forward to our country participating in the ICPD25 summit. For us the health of our youth and ensuring that we attain the Sustainable Development Goals is critical,” he added.

He also acknowledged the presence of UNFPA’s new Representative to Lesotho Dr Marc Derveeuw.


During a courtesy visit to the Minister of Health Hon Nkaku Kabi who was accompanied by the Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Health Mr Lefu Manyokole, Dr Onabanjo congratulated the Ministry for the progress it has made since the 1994 Cairo conference in areas such as maternal health.

She particularly expressed appreciation to the priority that Lesotho has put on family planning by committing to procure family planning commodities. “The Government of the Kingdom of Lesotho is by so doing ensuring that women have access to contraceptive methods of their choice.”

Speaking at the meeting, UNFPA Representative to Lesotho Dr Marc Derveeuw also applauded Lesotho for strides taken in addressing HIV/AIDS.

 Some years ago, HIV in Lesotho was rampant, however, there has been positive change and life expectancy has increased.”

He reaffirmed his commitment to supporting HIV prevention efforts and reduction of new HIV infections. “While I am in Lesotho, HIV will be high on my agenda,” he reaffirmed.

Hon. Kabi expressed concern on the high rate of teenage pregnancy in Lesotho and stated that as thus, the country has embarked on a serious campaign against teenage pregnancy.

The Minister thanked UNFPA for the technical and financial support to the health ministry, especially in the area of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights and in particular reaching out to key populations

During a brief meeting with World Vision Lesotho; UNFPA Lesotho’s implementing partner, World Vision’s Country Director Mrs Pauline Okumu highlighted key interventions undertaken under UNFPA support. High on the agenda was advocacy for ending child marriage.

She cited one of the challenges regarding child marriage as the disharmony in legislation particularly between the Marriage Act and the Child Protection and   Welfare Act 2011. She also pointed to cultural practices that fuel high rates of child marriage, which has increased from 19 to 24  percent.

The early and unintended pregnancies, at 19 percent are also a major contributing factor to child marriage.

 In response to ending child marriage, Mrs. Okumu indicated that her organization has been engaging parliamentarians on legislation against child marriage through a round table conference advocating for speedy enactment of a law against child marriage.

Mrs Okumu  further stated that World Vision has engaged with traditional leaders and men and have conducted community dialogues on Gender Based Violence (GBV) in a bid to address child marriage and GBV.

She highlighted on World Vision’s engagement with Her Majesty Queen ‘Masenate Mohato Seeisio and her daughter Princess Senate on  raising awareness on child marriage and other health issues among the adolescents and youth particularly those in primary and secondary schools.

“Royal family so engaged….”

Dr  Onabanjo said it was encouraging to see a royal family so engaged in issues of health and development. She expressed appreciation to World Vision for partnering with UNFPA in the pursuit to ending harmful practices including child marriage. She also highlighted World Vision on the upcoming Nairobi summit and invited the organization and other Civil Society Organizations to support the country in development of the national commitment on accelerating the ICPD agenda.

Why I March …..

The meeting with staff in UNFPA Lesotho Country Office kicked off with each member of staff introducing themselves and stating “What they March for” in line with the “Why I March campaign” recently launched by UNFPA Executive Director Dr Natalia Kanem.

 The Regional Director congratulated Lesotho for the youth led commitment on accelerating the Cairo promise. For her, she would “march” for the young people of Africa. “I march with for, behind and besides the young people of Africa and I think we need to hand over to them a continent that is different, particularly for young girls.”

   “My heart has always been with  Africa’s Youth”

Dr Onabanjo welcomed Lesotho’s new     UNFPA Representative Dr Marc Derveeuw whom she described as a “nurturing leader who will groom and raise you.”

 She also briefed the staff on her visit and the special invite to His Majesty King Letsie III to the ICPD summit in November. She recalled a meeting with His Majesty in 2016 where, “we brought to his attention that the direction that HIV was taking was becoming precarious. He took action and we are seeing an upscale on HIV response in Lesotho now.”

She encouraged the Country Office to continue with conversations towards development of commitments that will be brought to the Nairobi summit on accelerating the Cairo promise.

Following the mission, the Kingdom of Lesotho is now geared up for Nairobi.