Lesotho is a lower middle income country with a population of 1.9 million people. It ranks 162 of 187 countries on the 2014 United Nations Development Programme Human Development Index. The country continues to struggle with a range of persistent development challenges, including chronic poverty and high levels of unemployment. Food and nutrition insecurity is exacerbated by recurrent climatic shocks, chronic malnutrition and the world’s second highest HIV and AIDS prevalence.
While agriculture is the main livelihood source for a majority of the rural population, the ability of Lesotho to produce its own food needs has declined in recent decades. This is largely the result of recurrent drought, soil infertility and land degradation. Together, these factors exacerbate vulnerability to recurrent shocks, and entrench food insecurity and undernutrition.
Compounded by the effects of poor rains since 2013, the country is currently facing what is expected to be its worst drought in decades, amid the impact of an El Niño event that will be felt through 2016 and into 2017. The result has been a sharp decline in food production and a failure to plant new crops by a large proportion of farmers.
In December 2015, the Government of Lesotho declared a state of emergency, the first country in Southern Africa to do so. A January 2016 Multi-Agency Drought Assessment Team (MDAT) Rapid Drought Impact Assessment found that some 535,000 people were at risk of food insecurity. More recently, the June 2016 annual Lesotho Vulnerability Assessment Committee exercise estimates that 709,000 people across the country will be food insecure at the height of the 2016/17 lean season; of these, 491,000 people are believed to be in need of emergency assistance.
In response to the effects of the drought, this PRRO 200980 will concurrently pursue immediate life-saving objectives and a longer-term vision around recovery, resilience and strengthening national response capacities.
The operation will support an estimated 263,236 vulnerable drought-affected people through:
- Monthly relief food assistance in priority locations to stabilise or improve food security and dietary diversity during the lean season;
- Food assistance for assets in areas recurrently affected by shocks to reduce disaster risks and strengthen resilience over time;
- Technical assistance to the Government’s national public works programme to become a more effective and shock-responsive safety net in the longer-term.
In line with the results of a March 2016 market assessment, assistance will be provided in the form of both food and cash-based transfers.