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This map does not reflect a position by UNICEF on the legal status of any country or territory or the delimitation of any frontiers.

Poverty, drought and the HIV/AIDS epidemic have rendered more than half of Lesotho dependent on food assistance. The HIV/AIDS epidemic here is among the very worst in the world, with a prevalence among people 15-49 years old of almost 29 per cent, cutting life expectancy at birth from 60 years in 1991 to a staggering 35 years. Despite emergency food donations, it seems unlikely that Lesotho will eradicate hunger or extreme poverty by 2015.

Issues facing children in Lesotho

  • Orphans and other vulnerable children (including those who are heads of households) are most at risk from the ongoing food crisis. The number of orphans has increased to an estimated 180,000.
  • Infant, under-five and maternal mortality rates have all increased significantly since the early 1990s.
  • Most young people are aware of the risks of HIV and pregnancy, but continue to engage in dangerous behaviours such as sex with multiple partners and sex without condoms. Also contributing to the spread of AIDS are incidents of rape and sexual coercion.
  • Only 2,000 of the approximately 56,000 people who need anti-retroviral therapy are receiving it.
  • Girls’ school enrolment rates have been dropping; many girls have been compelled to quit school to care for younger children or other family members because of the death of a parent.
  • Under Lesotho’s constitution, women are legally considered minors under guardianship to their male relatives.

Activities and results for children

  • Lesotho’s government has approved a UNICEF-endorsed Poverty Reduction Strategy.
  • The government has opened the first public anti-retroviral therapy centre.
  • Twenty-five per cent of all pregnant women now visit clinics that offer HIV counselling and testing. A third of these women have also enrolled in programmes that educate them on how to avoid transmitting HIV/AIDS to their babies.
  • UNICEF and its partners have trained 500 teachers and more than 100 teacher-trainers in HIV/AIDS and life skills education.
  • The Girls Education Movement has trained 7,000 young girls and boys as peer educators to spread the word about prevention of HIV/AIDS and to campaign for quality education for all.
  • UNICEF and its partners provided de-worming and vitamin A supplements to 9,000 children.
  • The Ministry of Home Affairs helped to establish a Child and Gender Protection Unit within the Police Department as a key partner in protecting the rights of women and children. All police cadets will now receive training to improve their communication and counselling skills and an education in relevant human-rights policies.



Basic Indicators

Under-5 mortality rank


Under-5 mortality rate (U5MR), 1990


Under-5 mortality rate (U5MR), 2012


U5MR by sex 2012, male


U5MR by sex 2012, female


Infant mortality rate (under 1), 1990


Infant mortality rate (under 1), 2012


Neonatal mortality rate 2012


Total population (thousands) 2012


Annual no. of births (thousands) 2012


Annual no. of under-5 deaths (thousands) 2012


GNI per capita (US$) 2012


Life expectancy at birth (years) 2012


Total adult literacy rate (%) 2008-2012*


Primary school net enrolment ratio (%) 2008-2011*


Definitions and data sources [popup]

Source: The State of the World's Children

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