Lesotho: Food Insecurity - Emergency appeal n° MDRLS003

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This Emergency Appeal seeks CHF 1,119,000 in cash, kind, or services to support the Lesotho Red Cross Society to assist 8,000 beneficiaries (1,600 households) for 9 months, and will be completed by July, 2013. A Final report will be made available by October, 2013.

CHF 100,000 has been allocated from the IFRC’s Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) to support the National Society to start up activities and be able to provide immediate assistance. Unearmarked funds to repay DREF are encouraged.

Summary: Agricultural production has dramatically decreased across Lesotho in recent months and severe food insecurity is affecting all ten districts of the country, including the mountainous areas, the foothills and the low lands. More than 725,000 people are at serious risk of food insecurity. This year’s crop failures follow poor harvests last year, and the two consecutive years of reduced crop yields have increased the vulnerability of many of the country’s poorest farmers. While food insecurity and chronic vulnerability to hunger are unfortunately common in rural Lesotho, poor soil and the cumulative effect of the two bad harvests have pushed people into negative coping strategies and many have resorted to selling assets, taking children out of school and reducing meals.

The sharp reduction in agricultural yields has also been exacerbated by repeated flooding, late rains and early frost in mountainous regions. The situation is compounded by the fact that Lesotho has the third highest HIV prevalence rate in the world at 23.5%. Adequate and nutritious food is critical for these people.

In view of this, the Government of Lesotho (GoL) declared an Emergency Food Crisis on 9 August and launched an appeal for LSL 303,872,392 (USD 37,984,049), to support the distribution of around MT 61,885 of maize (using current rural maize prices). The Prime Minister has also officially called for international assistance through an UN flash appeal for USD 151 million launched on 13 September.

To support national efforts, it was agreed that the Lesotho Red Cross Society (LRCS) would also launch an international appeal to support their response to the crisis. This appeal is being launched based on the information currently available through the Lesotho Vulnerability Assessment Committee (VAC) and through LRCS’s own experience and assessments via their divisional and branch network. The LRCS response will focus on five of the most vulnerable districts, where the needs are great and where they have existing expertise and capacity in dealing with food insecurity and providing other integrated support to vulnerable communities. These five districts are Mokhotlong, Mafeteng, Quthing, Thaba-Tseka and part of Maseru (Foothills). These target districts do not overlap with the response of other actors who are working in the other affected districts. LRCS already provides integrated food security and home-based care / prevention programmes (for PLWHA) in the five districts, with support from partner National Societies and this appeal will enable LRCS to scale up their food security activities and provide emergency and longer-term assistance to a wider group of vulnerable people in these communities.

LRCS is planning to undertake a detailed needs assessment, with support from a British Red Cross Household Economic Security expert and can draw on Regional Disaster Response Team (RDRT) support if required. The findings of this assessment will assist the national society to scale up its intervention appropriately. There will also be training for the national society staff and volunteers, to build national society capacity to carry out effective assessments and plan / deliver food security interventions.

Based on the situation in Lesotho, this Emergency Appeal responds to a request from the LRCS and provides support to take an appropriate and timely action by delivering assistance in the following sectors; food security, nutrition and livelihoods, as well as disaster risk reduction and capacity building.