Peace Corps Temporarily Evacuates Volunteers from Lesotho; All Volunteers Are Safe, Now in Pretoria
September 28, 1998Washington, D.C., September 28, 1998—Peace Corps Director Mark Gearan announced today that the Peace Corps has temporarily evacuated Peace Corps volunteers from Lesotho, southern Africa. Volunteers and staff were evacuated by land and air last week along with the staff and dependents of the U.S. personnel stationed in the country.
On Friday, the U.S. Department of State issued an authorized departure declaration as the result of fighting in the capital city of Maseru between rebel soldiers and government troops. Much of the business district in Maseru has been looted and burned.
All 75 Peace Corps volunteers and Peace Corps staff who were serving in Lesotho are now in Pretoria, South Africa. The Peace Corps is monitoring the situation in Lesotho and will make a decision about the future of the program there in seven to 10 days.
"The Peace Corps is committed to ensuring the health and safety of our volunteers," said Gearan. "We are hopeful that future circumstances will permit our return to Lesotho."
Volunteers in Lesotho work in education, agriculture and rural development. Lesotho is a landlocked, mountainous country that is completely surrounded by South Africa; it is slightly smaller than the state of Maryland with a population of 2 million people.
Currently, about 6,500 Peace Corps volunteers are working in 80 countries to bring clean water to communities, teach children, protect the environment, help start new businesses, and prevent the spread of AIDS. Since 1961, more than 150,000 Americans have joined the Peace Corps.