Food crisis threatens families in Lesotho
Lesotho is facing a serious food crisis. Due to a series of floods, late rains, and early frost, more than 725,000 people – one-third of the population – will be short of food. Agricultural production has dropped 70 per cent, resulting in Lesotho’s worst harvest in ten years.
'Crop production has declined during six of the last seven years,' said Michelle Carter, Country Director for CARE Lesotho. 'People’s reserves and safety nets have been exhausted, and with another poor harvest the situation has become an emergency.'
A majority of Lesotho farmers are subsistence farmers who rely on agriculture as their main source of food. This year, however, domestic production will meet only 10 per cent of Lesotho’s cereal needs. But many are unable to affford imported food.
Chronic malnutrition is already extremely high in Lesotho. More than one in three children under five are stunted, and the current food insecurity has the potential to increase malnutrition still further, especially among young children, and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Almost a quarter of people in Lesotho are HIV positive or living with AIDS. The combination of low household food production and high food costs forces people living with AIDS to make choices between feeding themselves and their families and continuing with life-saving medications.
Women and children are particularly at risk of exposure to dangerous coping mechanisms such as being forced into trafficking and the sex industry.
CARE has been working in Lesotho since 1968. We have recently distributed seeds to vulnerable households so that they are able to plant in this year’s agricultural season.
Working with our partners, CARE plans to reach over 4,000 households with a combination of cash vouchers and cash-for-work programs to allow people to buy food in the market. Small-scale cash vouchers will target the most vulnerable households: those that have high numbers of children under five and/or pregnant and lactating women, or are caring for people with AIDS.
In addition to meeting immediate food needs, CARE’s response will focus on providing nutritional education, working to combat gender-based violence and HIV transmission, and on rebuilding community safety nets through programs such as Village Savings and Loans Associations.