Lesotho is facing the devastating effects of two successive crop failures compounded by a litany of socio-economic adversities. Increased food insecurity is expected to affect a large part of the population through the 2012/13 lean season. The findings of the recent Lesotho Vulnerability Assessment Committee’s reportas well as a rapid assessment conducted by the United States Agency for International Developmentindicate that Lesotho’s level of food security has declined significantly for the second year in a row. The impact of this season’s late rains and subsequent widespread drought adds to the increasing vulnerability of the population. The matter is worsened by the fact that the country faced a similar poor harvest in 2011.
In contrast to flood damage in the previous year that primarily affected the highlands and Senqu River Valley areas, the current drought has affected almost all geographical zones and districts, representing almost a 30 percent increase in populations facing food insecurity compared with last year, further aggravating the suffering of those who were already in an emergency situation.
The Lesotho Vulnerability Assessment Committee’s report concluded that 725,000 people face a survival deficitranging from 15 to 55 percent depending on their location. Among those, 210,000 most vulnerable people are classified as ‘very poor’. Most of them have already run out of food stocks and require immediate assistance. Levels of food insecurity are expected to peak as early as September, while the lean season normally runs from January to March. The Government recently declared an emergency food crisis and formally requested international assistance. A strategic response plan was developed taking into consideration both activities that address immediate needs of the most vulnerable households, and activities that address the vulnerability profile of the country.
In response to the Government’s request, this emergency operation will address the food needs of 210,000 people classified as ’very poor’ from October 2012 to April 2013. WFP will target people living in the most food-insecure areas - mainly in the higher mountains, South Lowlands and Senqu Valley areas. Food assistance will be provided through targeted food distributions and livelihood support activities using cash-for-asset modalities.
In line with the priorities of the Government and the United Nations system in Lesotho, the overall aim of this operation is to respond to the emergency needs, while seizing opportunities to contribute to resilience building and disaster risk reduction by addressing land and soil degradation, and strengthening watershed management practices. The operation will primarily address WFP Strategic Objectives 1 - Save lives and protect livelihoods in emergencies and 2 - Prevent acute hunger and invest in disaster preparedness and mitigation measures. The operation will also contribute to Millennium Development Goal 1. 4