Lesotho: El Niño-related Drought - Office of the Resident Coordinator Situation Update No. 5 (as of 17 March 2017)

Situation Report
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This report is produced by Office of the Resident Coordinator in Lesotho in collaboration with humanitarian partners. It is issued by the Humanitarian Country Team. It covers the period from 1 October 2016 up to 17 March 2017


  • The response to Lesotho`s unprecedented El Niño-induced drought is ongoing. Humanitarian partners have been able to secure more than USD 39 million for the relief dimension of the response. The Government of Lesotho (GoL) has committed around USD 23 million through direct humanitarian interventions and a food subsidy. The available funding has allowed to exceed the targets in the food security and agricultural sector previously set out in the RIASCO Action Plan.

  • While around USD 11 million have been made available for the agricultural recovery, cash for assets programmes have not received sufficient funding so far, although they bear the potential for in building drought-resilient assets in communities. The priorities among the remaining gaps are the early recovery and resilience dimensions of the response.

  • An update of the LVAC in November 2016, released in February 2017 sees the number of people living with a food security survival deficit to 46,000 from 476,000 prior.

  • The GoL together with its partners is currently developing a National Resilience Strategy to address chronic gaps in the climate change adaptation, food security, chronic malnutrition and health emergencies.

  • 82% of people facing food insecurity are receiving humanitarian assistance through cash grants, top-ups to social protection and in-kind assistance. GoL is contributing to the drought assistance through a 30% food subsidy on basic staple food (maize, beans, peas) for one year. Humanitarian partners are complementing the food subsidy through cash and in-kind assistance to approximately 460,000 people. An urban vulnerability assessment is currently ongoing to establish the number of affected people in urban and peri-urban areas, which is expected to increase the overall number of people in need.

  • Lesotho is currently approaching the final stage of the lean season that is projected to end in April/May 2017 with the next harvest, depending on the livelihood zones.

  • While water levels have recovered slowly, general water levels are still low in Lesotho. So far, approx. 110,000 people have been assisted through distribution of water purification tablets and provision of water through the rehabilitation of sites.

  • Regionally, the El Niño phenomenon has officially ended in July 2016. Lesotho is currently experiencing the La Niña phase – normal rainfall and normal to above normal temperatures are expected for the period MarchMay 2017.

Situation Overview

LVAC update: Food insecurity persisting

Lesotho is currently approaching the final stage of the lean season that is projected to end in April/May 2017, once the next harvest is expected. In rural areas, food insecurity is around 58% with a total of 561,814 people currently affected (decreased from 709,394 in May 2016) in Butha-Buthe,
Leribe, Maseru, Mohale’s Hoek and Quthing districts. A total of 461,670 beneficiaries has been reached so far. The LVAC findings suggest that household food insecurity differs considerably with poor and very poor households being more adversely affected.
The number of people living with a food security survival deficit decreased from 476,842 in May 2016 to 46,521 in November (cf. Table 1), suggesting that food security interventions have successfully addressed the needs. Since November 2016, the number of people assisted with cash and food further increased.
Regarding the agricultural and pastoral situation, crops are currently in good condition and harvest prospects are positive. Assuming that the current rainfall conditions prevail, it is expected that an average harvest will be achieved for this season. In Butha-Buthe, Leribe, Berea, Mafeteng and Mohale’s Hoek districts, winter wheat has reached maturity stage. Many areas in the highlands and lowlands had occurrences of hailstorms which have partially destroyed crops at germination stage therefore vegetable production was low in most districts.
Livestock is gradually recovering from the effects of the drought. The reports by Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security indicate that livestock mortality rate remains normal. Cattle prices slightly increased compared to May 2016 following some improvement observed in animal body conditions across the country.
According to FEWS NET, Lesotho is projected to be in IPC Phase 2 (Stressed) from February through April 2017, in the presence of humanitarian assistance. The country is then projected to reach IPC Phase 1 (Minimal) from June to September 2017.