Humanitarian community seeks $18.9 million to address Lesotho's worst drought in thirty years

Report
from UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Published on 30 Jul 2007
(New York: 30 July) The humanitarian community has launched an appeal for $18.9 million to assist the Government of Lesotho, which declared a state of emergency on 9 July after the country was hit by the worst drought in thirty years. High temperatures and a prolonged dry spell during the 2006/07 cropping season have largely destroyed maize and sorghum harvests, causing fears that up to one-third of the population - 553,000 people out of a population of 1.8 million - will require humanitarian assistance between now and the next harvest in May 2008.

Lesotho is expected to produce only 72,000 metric tonnes of cereal this year, while the population requires about 328,000 metric tonnes. South Africa, which supplies approximately 70% of Lesotho's food needs, has also seen a decrease in cereal production, which will increase the price of those products in this drought-stricken country. So far, maize prices have gone up by 60% since April, and have doubled since 2005. Rising costs leave the poorest families unable to cope, while intensifying the impact of HIV/AIDS on food-insecure households. Around 270,000 people in Lesotho are living with the condition.

While providing food assistance to food-insecure households is an immediate concern, there is also an urgent need to help poor households to resume their crop production activities in the next agricultural season. The Government of Lesotho has allocated $12 million for cash-for-work projects and $6 million for agricultural activities, and plans to provide a Government subsidy for maize meal are nearly complete. But additional humanitarian assistance is needed to address food needs, agriculture, early recovery, health care, nutrition, protection, and water and sanitation for a period of six months.

"We hope that at the end of a fully funded flash appeal, food production will have recovered and farmers will be better cushioned against future shocks," said John Holmes, the United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator. "The international community must work closely with the Government of Lesotho to try to ensure that vulnerable households enjoy better food security in the long term."

On 25 July, the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) allocated $3.8 million - $710,748 to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), $1.45 million to the World Food Programme (WFP), and $1.66 million to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) - to jump start urgent programmes in response to the emergency in Lesotho. Life-saving interventions funded by the CERF include the establishment of therapeutic feeding centres, provision of agricultural inputs and emergency food assistance.

An appeal has already been launched to address food shortages in Swaziland affecting more than 400,000 people. Except for Malawi, Angola, Mozambique and Tanzania, cereal production declined across Southern Africa compared to the previous agricultural year. In Zimbabwe, more than two million people are expected to face food shortages from July, a number expected to peak at more than four million people in early 2008.

For further information, please call: Stephanie Bunker, OCHA-New York, +1 917 367 5126, mobile +1 917 892 1679; Dizery Salim, OCHA-New York, +1 917 367 9262; Elisabeth Byrs, OCHA-Geneva, +41 22 917 2653, mobile, +41 79 473 4570. OCHA press releases are available at http://ochaonline.un.org or www.reliefweb.int.

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