Lesotho is currently experiencing an unprecedented El Niño-induced drought, with an almost 62 per cent decline in crop production during the last agricultural season. According to the Lesotho Vulnerability Assessment Committee (LVAC), half of the rural population is at risk of livelihood and food insecurity between May 2016 and April 2017. Its latest assessment indicated that 680,000 people are at risk in absence of all other safety nets except school feeding. Of those, 477,000 people require life-saving and livelihood protection interventions over the next 9 to 12 months, and 203,000 require emergency livelihood support. The nearly one in four people in Lesotho that are living with HIV are at particular risk. The LVAC findings for nutrition are consistent with the health facility data review, showing acute malnutrition is within acceptable ranges. However, chronic malnutrition is widespread among children under age 5 years with severe stunting high in children aged 18 to 29 months. National figures for children in rural areas are 2.7 per cent for wasting, 42.7 per cent stunting and 12.2 per cent underweight, based on the most recent LVAC findings.
For the period between June and October 2016, all districts are in Crisis conditions (IPC Phase 3). According to FEWS NET, many poor and very poor households in Lesotho are engaging in off-season activities, including gardening, construction, domestic work, as well as self-employment. However, income from most of these activities is below normal due to the impact of drought earlier this year. As a result, many households are migrating to urban centers in South Africa in search of work.
Even though maize meal prices remain 17 to 30 per cent above the five-year average, which continues to erode purchasing power and constrain food access, there was a slight decline in staple prices between June and July. Though it is still too early to establish the trend and the factors contributing to this decrease, it is possible that this decrease is due to the government food subsidy programme that covers 30 per cent of the cost of maize meal from May 2016 to May 2017. If this is the case, the subsidy should improve household purchasing power and food access in the coming months. Close monitoring of food prices is however required. Lesotho farmers are facing a significant shortage in seeds for planting, which if not addressed could predestine another poor harvest. Roughly a tenth of the maize, sorghum, bean and pea seeds required are available. A recent rapid assessment of schools indicates that 30percent of schools in the country are in need of immediate WASH support. This means there is insufficient water for over 100,000 children in all districts. Poor WASH services in schools have shown to result in low attendance and high drop-out rates.
A total of 340 children suffering from severe acute malnutrition have been admitted for treatment between January and June 2016, while over 24,000 children aged 6 to 59 months have been reached with vitamin A supplements. While the most vulnerable households are already receiving assistance, humanitarian partners are planning larger scale responses as we move through the lean season.
As of October 2016