In October 2019, the Government of Lesotho declared a drought emergency, following poor rains and high temperatures in 2018–2019 and the El Niño drought in 2015–2016. About one quarter of the population (508,125 people, including 213,360 children, with 433,000 in rural areas and 75,000 in urban areas) require humanitarian assistance. In 2020, all 10 districts of Lesotho are expected to face crisis levels of food insecurity. High temperatures are rapidly drying water reservoirs, impacting access to safe water for populations in need and increasing the risk of waterborne diseases, with a reported increase in cases of diarrhoeal disease in recent months. Acute malnutrition is on the rise, particularly among vulnerable groups, including children under 5 years, pregnant and lactating women, people living with HIV and people with tuberculosis. Some 2,500 children are at risk of severe acute malnutrition (SAM). Rising food insecurity is undermining HIV treatment adherence, retention and success. Families impacted by the drought are resorting to negative coping mechanisms to survive, including transactional sex and early marriage, both of which significantly affect women and girls. Children and women are at heightened risk of abuse, violence and other protection issues.
Humanitarian strategy Results from 2019
UNICEF will support the Government of Lesotho to respond to the humanitarian needs of 340,000 people affected by drought, including 213,400 children. This will include the implementation of life-saving interventions in nutrition, health, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), social and child protection, education and HIV and AIDS. UNICEF will provide technical support on therapeutic nutrition and the prevention of wasting and stunting to manage SAM and other comorbidities. In WASH, UNICEF will provide life-saving access to drought-resilient water and hygiene services in communities, health care facilities and schools. Given the high HIV prevalence rates in Lesotho, UNICEF will support the immediate humanitarian needs of women and children at risk of or living with HIV, including through continuous access to information and critical services. Social safety nets will help the most affected children and their families cope with the drought; safe and secure learning environments for children will be enhanced; access to information about child protection services will be increased; and the capacities of child protection service providers will be strengthened. UNICEF will also support the United Nations Humanitarian Country Team in the areas of disaster preparedness and contingency planning.
Results from 2019
In 2019, UNICEF mobilized a total of US$868,485 to respond to droughts in Lesotho. UNICEF supported the Government to develop the National Drought Response Plan strategies on nutrition, WASH and social and child protection. More than 2,000 severely malnourished children received treatment through the distribution of supplies and the provision of technical assistance and support for programmes to prevent wasting and stunting. Affected populations gained access to safe water through water trucking and the rehabilitation of water systems. Life-saving information on infant and young child feeding, hygiene and the prevention of violence against children and gender-based violence reached over 132,000 people. In child protection, 100 community-based committees were established, and 867 officers were trained on mainstreaming protection across interventions. Communication for development activities supported community response and resilience building. Local media outlets received training on emergency reporting and referral mechanisms. UNICEF supported the Government to develop a shock-responsive social protection system that included a scalability framework, early warning early action system and a methodology for routine data updates. While UNICEF made significant contributions to drought response in 2019, limited funding hindered the implementation of activities, especially in the social protection and education sectors.