No More Bare Feet: MSH and TOMS distribute shoes to children in Lesotho

{Photo credit: MSH/Johanna Theunissen}Photo credit: MSH/Johanna Theunissen

Thousands of children in Lesotho will soon have a brand new pair of shoes on their feet, some for the first time in their lives, thanks to an on-going partnership between Management Sciences for Health (MSH) and TOMS Shoes. 

Funded by USAID, MSH’s Building Local Capacity for Delivery of HIV Services in Southern Africa Project (BLC Project), in collaboration with Lesotho’s Ministry of Social Development, civil society organizations (CSO), and UN agencies, commemorated the Day of the African Child with the launch of TOMS Shoes distribution in Siloe Community Council in Mohale’s Hoek district, Lesotho, on June 14, 2013. The event was attended by the Minister of Social Development ‘Matebatso Doti, the Minister of Public Works and Transport Kekeletso Rants’o, BLC Project Director Donald Harbick, UNICEF’s Chief Social Policy Ousmane Niang, teachers and students from local schools, and other local officials and community organizations.

Lesotho Minister of Social Development ‘Matebatso Doti remarked, “Thanks to our supporting partners, especially MSH…This Ministry of Social Development is committed to contributing to children’s health and education so they can have a bright future. It is the responsibility of all of us to make sure that these children’s futures are secured.”

The MSH&;TOMS Giving Project, named “No More Bare Feet,” is designed to complement the health, educational, and psychosocial components of the program for orphans and vulnerable children that MSH is currently implementing in Lesotho through the BLC Project. Lesotho is composed of rural, disperse communities with rugged terrain lacking roads and transportation networks. The weather can be harsh, with four months of snow a year in some areas. Lesotho also has high levels of poverty and HIV. These factors create conditions in which children, many of them orphans, cannot afford shoes and thus must walk long distances (including to school) barefoot. Skin abrasions are common and often become infected.

In Lesotho, BLC works with the Ministry of Social Development at all levels: national, district, and community. At the community level, BLC provides small USAID-funded grants to 12 civil society organizations to deliver coordinated, high-quality, evidence-based health services to a more than 62,000 orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) and their caregivers in five districts: Mokhotlong, Mohale’s Hoek, Thaba Tsheka, Qacha’s Nek, and Quthing. It is through these networks, and in partnership with the Government of Lesotho, that shoes will reach the children most in need of them.

Based in Los Angeles, California, TOMS gives a new pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair purchased through its One for One®model. TOMS provides these shoes to humanitarian and health organizations around the world to distribute the shoes to the children they serve fordisease prevention, access to education, and quality of life.

Thabo Lebaka, the National OVC Coordinator at the Ministry of Social Development, stated, “The part we appreciate [about TOMS distribution] is the continuity of the provision of the shoes. It is not a once-off, which often creates a demand that cannot be met. The shoes complement other interventions we are doing and forms part of the comprehensive services we are providing. Clothing is one of the essential services to OVC, and clothes are actually more accessible than shoes: it is winter and there is a great demand for shoes now…We have worked with MSH on many levels. The best part is that the project works with the priorities of the Ministry and the national OVC plan. We have a super relationship and regularly meet and plan together. We look forward to conducting deeper and more widespread interventions with MSH.”