This is a generation that urgently needs our help, for their future and the future prosperity of Africa.The Duke of Sussex
Thank you Prince Seeiso. Salam Al-Akyum. Good evening ladies and gentlemen.
As you have heard from Prince Seeiso, thousands of children’s lives are shattered by the loss of one or both parents to AIDS related illnesses and poverty everyday. They are left alone, orphaned, possibly living with disability and often completely unaware that they are carrying the HIV virus.
In 2009, we held the first Sentebale Polo Cup in Barbados to raise awareness and funding for our work with vulnerable children in Lesotho. Since then, we have taken the event around the world, to the UK, Brazil, the USA, and today to Abu Dhabi, spreading the word about our work with some of the worlds most vulnerable children. The funds raised through these matches has been vital in allowing Sentebale to provide care and education to thousands of these disadvantaged children and young people in Lesotho.
Why is this so important?
Globally, HIV is the second highest cause of death amongst those aged between 10 19 years old, and it is the number one cause of death across Africa. This is a generation that urgently needs our help, for their future and the future prosperity of Africa.
How is Sentebale spending the money it raises?
Today, due to the great work of many organisations and governments, anti-retroviral medication is much more widely available. It is no longer a death sentence to be HIV-positive; and yet only 25% of the estimated 40,000 young people living with HIV in Lesotho are accessing this medication. As a result, each day children are dying due to a lack of understanding about the disease or a reluctance to receive the necessary treatment.
One of Sentebale’s main programmes is working to tackle the stigma which surrounds HIV amongst the young people of Lesotho, the majority of whom contracted the disease in the womb. We encourage these children and young people to come together through our week-long Mamohato camps and regular clubs, to talk about their health issues and fears of living with HIV. Often for the first time they learn to talk openly to one and another about being HIV-positive, learning about their medication, building friendships and a sense of normality, as they realise that with the correct medication, it is possible to lead a long and healthy life.
The money raised this evening will go towards teaching many more HIV-positive young people, how to live with the virus. Our aim is that, by educating these children and creating peer networks where they can discuss their concerns, we will start to tackle the stigma surrounding HIV; which after all is the greatest hurdle for those living with it. By increasing adherence to medication through this psycho-social support, we will improve self-esteem, quality of life and ultimately extend life expectancy for the next generation of Basotho people.
Building work on the Mamohato Children’s Centre in Thaba Basu, Lesotho, is well underway. This is a permanent residential facility to house the Mamohato camps as well as being our hub from which we will facilitate workshops for all our other programmes. The centre is due to be complete next year and will enable us to reach four times as many children than we are currently able to. This will also mark the beginning of our expansion plans into other southern African countries where there is also a huge need for this type of support. Nacho (who I beat earlier!) will tell you more about this later.
On behalf of all of us at Sentebale, I’d like to thank you all for coming here today to support our work with vulnerable children in Lesotho. In particular, I’d like to thank His Highness Sheikh Falah Bin Sultan Al Nahyan for allowing us to use the stunning grounds of Ghantoot Racing & Polo Club and all of our sponsors, without whom, this event would not be possible.
Ladies and gentlemen, tonight, in Abu Dhabi, at the fifth Sentebale Polo Cup, you can help support us in our mission to provide the children and young people of Lesotho with the childhood they deserve. The childhood so many of us take for granted.
I hope you all have a wonderful time this evening.