LESOTHO — Lesotho is a tiny African country completely surrounded by South Africa, and unfortunately ranks high on the list of least developed and most impoverished nations. Poverty in Lesotho is extraordinarily high, with 57.1 percent living below the national poverty line.
Lesotho struggles with a high prevalence of poverty due primarily to its difficult geography and lack of resources. Its terrain is predominantly a highland plateau, making agriculture a difficult industry to pursue. Most people pursue subsistence farming, which does not aid the development of a large profitable country. Lesotho is also tiny — it is slightly smaller than the state of Maryland — and landlocked, limiting the extent of its resource availability.
Due to its small size and lack of resources, Lesotho depends heavily upon South Africa for imports. Additionally, only the textile industry serves as Lesotho’s main export. Great dependence upon South Africa and one industry causes Lesotho to be susceptible to economic downturns and setbacks, making it difficult for Lesotho to develop.
HIV/AIDS further exacerbates poverty in Lesotho. At 25 percent, Lesotho has the second highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rate in the world. Therefore, life expectancy at birth is low (53 years). The population pyramid is expansive with the majority of the population younger than age 40 — a numerical age average typical of developing nations. A large young adult population strains the economy; there are typically not enough resources to care for a disproportionate number of children to adults, and unemployment tends to be higher with this ratio. In Lesotho, the unemployment rate is estimated to be about 28 percent.
Identifying these problems is the first step in the process of fixing the issues contributing to poverty in Lesotho. With aid from the United States and other developed countries aimed at HIV/AIDS treatment and building viable industry, Lesotho could reign in its poverty rate and develop into a self-sufficient and profitable country.
– Mary Kate Luft