March 04, 2004 02:45 PM

The shocking tale of a sexually assaulted, starved and maimed 11-month-old girl came to the attention of Prince Harry — who met the baby victim — during his current educational tour of Lesotho, one of the poorest countries in South Africa and where a third of the population is infected with AIDS, reports PEOPLE.

Harry, 19, was told of the story of little Kekeletso, who last week was handed over to a special refuge for traumatized children at Mazenod, Lesotho. The baby’s case is now in the hands of the local police.

Harry “was very shocked. The story touched him so much,” Seithati Nkoe, 23, the youth coordinator at the Lesotho Community Counseling Unit, tells PEOPLE. “He was interested in hearing everything about this case.”

There is a myth circulating — and, sadly, believed by many in the AIDS-stricken country — that if an infected victim has sex with a virgin he will be cleared of the disease.

Since meeting the baby victim, the prince has express his concern, even asking his police minders to deliver diapers and milk formula for the tot.

Princess Mabereng, the wife of Prince Seeiso (who organized Harry’s trip), echoed Nkoe when she told PEOPLE: “The child was so traumatized. The baby had not been bathed. Prince Harry was so shocked. He is very interested in her and wanted to follow up on this. He has often asked me how she is recovering. He is so concerned.”

Word of Harry’s visit to the refuge emerged when he held an official photocall at the Mants’ase Children’s Home, near Mohale’s Hoek, to mark his visit to Lesotho on Wednesday.

Despite the horrors he has witnessed, Harry told reporters that Africa was “fantastic, really good fun. Hot, but fun.” But there was more to it than that for the lively prince. “It’s about learning about the culture, different countries. This is not exactly a place that everyone has heard of.”

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