Lesotho Drought Flash Appeal 2007

28 July 2007

A combination of extremely high temperatures and low rainfall has led to one of the worst droughts in thirty years, causing the Government to declare an emergency on 9 July and request international assistance.  Maize production, the country’s main staple, has dropped by 51% compared to last year, causing a deficit that is likely to be further aggravated by decreased cereal production in parts of South Africa, which has also experienced below-average rainfall for much of this year, and which supplies approximately 70% of Lesotho’s food requirements.  As a result of reduced crop production and limited casual labour opportunities, coupled with an exceptionally high price of South African maize, international agencies estimate that up to 553,000people will not be able to meet their annual food needs, with many households having already exhausted their coping mechanisms. 

The drought will further worsen the already precarious situation of acute poverty and food security in Lesotho.  The most vulnerable have depleted their food reserves and due to rising prices are not able to replenish them.  The lack of employment opportunities will create a surplus of people looking for unskilled jobs, thus driving wages down.  Wasting in children under five has surpassed the international threshold of 5% for declaring a situation of concern, reaching 6% this year from 2.4% in 2006.  An estimated 30% of boreholes and wells for potable water have dried up, as have many small dam reservoirs on which livestock and gardens depend.

While the immediate concern is food assistance to food-insecure households, there is an urgent need to restore their productive capacity in order to facilitate prompt recovery.  External assistance is urgently needed to allow poor households to resume their crop production activities for the upcoming 2007/2008 agricultural season; if this is not provided by October 2007, the planting season will be missed and food insecurity will extend another year.  In this light, the Government’s National Action Plan for Food Security includes measures to improve farm productivity, income and household food security through intensification, diversification and commercialisation of farming systems and promoting marketable sales of agricultural produce.  It also aims to improve the nutritional and health status of the most vulnerable, particularly those living with HIV and impacted by the AIDS epidemic.  The international community is working in close cooperation with the Government of Lesotho to ensure the necessary linkages between the emergency and recovery programming to ensure the food security of vulnerable households in the long term.

As part of its own national emergency response, the Government has allocated US$[1]19 million, of which $12 million to large cash-for-work projects through land reclamation, and $6 million to agricultural activities.  Government plans for the provision of a general subsidy for maize meal are almost finalised.  Additional humanitarian assistance, both national and international, is greatly needed to take the most vulnerable through to the next harvest expected in late May 2008. 

Within the framework of the flash appeal, the international community has identified key priority needs to be covered in the following sectors: agriculture, early recovery, food, health, nutrition, protection, and water and sanitation.  The requirements of this flash appeal, which has a planning and budgeting horizon of six months, amount to $18.9 million (following CERF commitments of $3.8 million), which should allow those hardest hit by the drought to recover and regain their resilience. 


[1]All dollar figures in this document are United States dollars.  Funding for this appeal should be reported to the Financial Tracking Service (FTS, fts@reliefweb.int), which will display its requirements and funding on the CAP 2007 page. 

Document History

28 July 2007

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