Lesotho

Lesotho: El Niño-related Drought - Office of the Resident Coordinator Situation Update No. 6 (as of 31 May 2017)

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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 17 March 2016 up to 31 May 2017.

Highlights

  • The emergency response to the El Niñoinduced drought is still ongoing and is scheduled to continue until August 2017.
    While most humanitarian relief activities have been completed, the outstanding interventions are being terminated in the upcoming weeks.

  • The Disaster Management Authority (DMA) has recently disseminated a memorandum requesting the suspension of humanitarian food and cash distributions in the month of May in view of the upcoming national elections, scheduled 3 June 2017.

  • The final distributions of food and cash grants during the month of June will resume immediately after the elections.

  • Humanitarian partners have been able to secure more than USD 40 million for the relief dimension of the response. The Government of Lesotho (GoL) has committed around USD 23 million through humanitarian interventions and a food subsidy program.

  • The priorities among the remaining gaps are the early recovery and resilience dimensions of the response.

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

  • 91% of people facing food insecurity received humanitarian support through in-kind assistance, cash grants and top-ups to social protection.

  • Lesotho is currently in IPC Phase 2 (Stressed), due to the extensive humanitarian cash and food assistance and it is projected to reach IPC Phase 1 (Minimal) from June to September 2017, following the harvest.

  • Market prices for staple food prices have gradually declined and are expected to decline further between June and September 2017. Household purchasing power is increased, resulting in improved food security.

  • Due to the preparations of the elections, the conduct of the yearly vulnerability analysis will be slightly postponed. While the rural vulnerability assessment is usually conducted in May/June, the data collection for the rural and urban VA will likely begin in mid-June.

  • Regionally, the El Niño phenomenon has officially ended in July 2016. The La Niña phase, which contributed to above normal rains over the last few months, has also ended.
    Normal rainfall and temperatures are expected for the period May-August 2017.

Situation Overview

Food insecurity is gradually improving in rural areas

Lesotho has recently experienced the final stage of the lean season and the harvest of staple food is currently ongoing until June/July 2017. According to FEWS NET, food security is gradually improving in rural areas as poor and very poor households began drying the main harvest early this season and consuming their own production.

Nonetheless, the last LVAC update published in February 2017 reported that the population food insecure in rural areas was 48% with 561,814 people affected (decreased from 709,394 in May 2016), in Butha-Buthe, Leribe, Maseru, Mohale’s Hoek and Quthing districts. A total of 466,563 beneficiaries have been reached so far through humanitarian interventions.

Regarding the agricultural and pastoral situation, crops are currently in good condition and harvest prospects are positive. Unlike other countries in the region, there have been no reported outbreaks of pests and disease. The improved pasture conditions and water availability provided relief for crops, horticulture and livestock, after the severe drought caused water and pasture shortages and resulted in hundreds of livestock deaths.

According to FEWS NET, Lesotho is currently in IPC Phase 2 (Stressed), due to the extensive humanitarian cash and food assistance and it is projected to reach IPC Phase 1 (Minimal) from June to September 2017.

Meteorological conditions and pastures improved

Regionally, the El Niño phenomenon has officially ended in July 2016. The subsequent La Niña phase, which contributed to above normal rains over the last few months has also ended. The El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) state has recently transitioned to neutral (neither El Niño nor La Niña).

According to the Lesotho Meteorological Services (LMS), the country received on average above normal rainfall in the period February to April 2017 which created relief for aquifers and improved the moisture content for crops (cf. Graph 1). The foothills and highlands benefited from a higher amount of rainfalls compared to the lowlands in the indicated period.

Normal rainfall and normal temperatures are expected for the period May-August 2017.
The Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) registered in April highlights that the density and health of vegetation were largely normal in the country (cf. Map 1). The situation of the vegetation in the lowlands is slightly better than the one in the foothills and highlands areas. Therefore, NDVI values indicate improved vegetation conditions and pastures.

Food prices are gradually decreasing

According to FEWS NET, with the anticipation of a good harvest, staple food prices have gradually declined and are expected to decline further between June and September 2017. Moreover, household purchasing power is also strengthening due to a combination of improved income (e.g. crop sales, harvesting labours, etc.) and declining staple prices, improving food security.

The recent WFP mobile Vulnerability Analysis and Mapping (mVAM) data shows that average maize meal prices fell slightly from M73.00/12.5 kg to M72.00/12.5 kg between February and March 2017.