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Toll-free child helpline to support children in Lesotho

© UNICEF Lesotho/2008
A young boy places call to Lesotho’s new toll-free Child Helpline, which aims to provide children with an open and safe place to talk about issues affecting them.

By Clelia Barbadoro

MASERU, Lesotho, 2 May 2008 – In a monumental effort to reinforce its commitments towards children and their protection, the Government of Lesotho launched the first-ever national Child Helpline last month.

The toll-free helpline, which is to be housed in the Lesotho branch of the non-governmental organization Save The Children, will provide youths with access to 24-hour counselling, support and protection services.

“While a child’s reason for calling a helpline may vary, one factor remains the same: a child is asking to be heard,” said UNICEF Representative in Lesotho Aichatou Diawara Flambert during the launching ceremony.
Hundreds of children participated in the launch, which was made possible with support from UNICEF, the Global Fund, non-governmental organization and telecommunication authorities.

Assistance for many situations

In a Needs Assessment Study of children undertaken in 2007 by the Ministry of Health with support from UNICEF, 91 per cent of children said that they had suffered from a range of personal problems such inadequate schooling, hunger, abuse, explotation and even rape.

The Child Helpline aims to offer a hand when children’s needs are ignored or their rights are violated.

During the launch ceremony, the Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Dr. Mphu Ramatlapeng, noted the magnitude of abuse against children in Lesotho. He commended the establishment of the Child Helpline as “one of the building blocks that will assist the country in achieving the Millennium Development Goals.”

The helpline in action

All children who call the helpline will receive counselling appropriate to their situation. Workers will refer children to appropriate services and places of safety, as a means to provide comprehensive assistance.

UNICEF will continue to support Child Helpline personnel and others involved in the programme. Key interventions will also focus on sensitizing communities to break the silence around issues of violence against children.

“Children have been crying out for help and their voices were not heard, they had no one to talk to and tell how they feel,” said schoolgirl Lipalesa Mpemi. “The Child Helpline is here to change this. It is here to protect all of us. Help is now just a phone call away.”



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