Lesotho: El Niño-related Drought - Office of the Resident Coordinator Situation Update No. 2 (as of 20 February 2016)

Situation Report
Originally published



• A multi-stakeholder Rapid Drought Impact Assessment was completed on February 8, 2016. The preliminary findings confirm that the country is facing a serious crisis relating to food security and water availability.

• The assessment found that 534,502 (more than 1 in 4) people were at risk of food insecurity until June 2016 with the situation expected to worsen in the second half of the year and the beginning of 2017 once the summer crop forecast for 2016 is available (June 2016).

• Poor and very poor households are experiencing a 44% decline in their food and cash income compared to normal conditions. The current food and cash income is 31% below the survival threshold.

• Despite recent rains, increasing difficulties are being experienced with regards to accessing water with rationing, increased wait times and water purchasing widely reported. The elderly, people living with HIV and AIDS and/or TB, the disabled and the sick were indicated as the most affected by water shortages.

• Protection concerns were highlighted including reported use of negative coping mechanisms and Sexual and Gender Based Violence.

Situation Overview

The Government of Lesotho (GoL) has declared a state of emergency (22 December 2015) in light of the drought that has gripped the country over the past several months and is expected to worsen in 2016. The historic delays in rains attributed to El Niño is expected to have a severe impact on the food security of the Basotho in 2016 and 2017, and many areas are already suffering from water shortages. The government’s declaration was accompanied by the jointly developed response plan as well as an appeal for international support.

The current drought cannot only be seen as a food security crisis. It is impacting different sectors including food security and agriculture, water, health and nutrition as well as migration and protection. The poor harvest is a compounded issue which originated with the poor rainfall during the 2014/2015 agricultural season and has persisted during the 2015/2016 agricultural season and only a negligible harvest is currently expected during the normal May/June 2016 harvest due to the delayed rainfall (Figure 1).

According to the recent Lesotho Drought Impact Assessment done at the end of January 2016 and published on February 8, 2016, the current number of people assessed to be at risk of food insecurity and not able to meet their survival needs until June 2016 is 534,502 people (over 25% of the total population). These numbers are expected to increase throughout 2016, particularly once the crop forecast is realized and the LVAC updated for the period June 2016 to May 2017.In the next months, incomes are likely to further deteriorate, the harvest is going to be very low and food prices are expected to further rise. In comparison 2012 a year with more favorable conditions than those currently being experienced left 725 000 Basotho food insecure. In the coming months, as the drought worsens, peri-urban and urban regions will also be increasingly affected, mainly due to increases of food prices and water shortages.

Due to the low levels of rainfall, up to 70% of communities report not having planted their crops. The stresses of both the cumulative impacts of this agricultural season along with the previous two poor harvests have meant that many communities and households are reliant on government assistance to purchase food at high prices at local markets. Livelihoods have been negatively impacted due to loss of livestock (due to drought related hunger, thirst and disease, including resulting in poorer feeding/water sources and increased animal morbidity). Resulting food insecurity from loss of crops and livestock is exacerbated by the increase of food prices, compounded by the weak South Africa Rand. The decline in the agricultural sector is also impacting livelihoods as they are unable to earn incomes by working on the farms (Figure 3). According to the assessment, food stock outages have been reported almost universally across districts.

The Drought Assessment of Jan/Feb 2016 revealed that poor and very poor households in Lesotho are only able to meet 69% of their survival needs- a deficit of 31% (Figure 3). This can be seen to be a result of decline in both crop production as well as all types of employment. The household food and income basket when compared to the reference year 2009/10 has declined by over 44%. The deficit is expected to increase throughout the second half of 2016 and into 2017.