Lesotho: more than half the population of Lesotho lives below the poverty line

Situation Report
Originally published

More than half the population of Lesotho lives below the poverty line. As the country continues to struggle with low levels of economic growth and reduced agricultural output, progress in development made in recent years is rapidly being reversed by the severe HIV/AIDS pandemic. The pandemic threatens to undermine the productive sectors of the economy, delivery of social services and the entire social fabric. According to a recent assessment mission, an estimated 450,000 people (22% of the population) in Lesotho will require targeted food aid in 2002-2003. Out of these, 62,500 are children under five years old. Safe water supply in the rural areas is estimated at less than 50% and sanitation coverage at only 20%.

Lesotho is facing large maize deficits because of two consecutive years of crop failure caused by severe adverse climatic conditions. The government of Lesotho declared a state of famine in April 2002. Traditionally a food deficit production country, the situation has been further exacerbated by a combination of factors that include severe weather conditions such as heavy rains, hailstorms, frost and tornadoes, but also limited available arable land, poor crop production, poor access to markets due to bad roads, high unemployment and poverty rates in the rural areas, and the high prevalence of HIV/AIDS which has serious implications on household food security.


The Lesotho Red Cross (LRCS) has targeted the districts of Thaba-Tseka and Mokhotlong for its food security related operations. All the targeted villages are in the remote mountain areas where the LRCS will target some of the most vulnerable groups in the country. The mountain areas are cold and barren and the communities live by subsistence farming. Poverty and unemployment is high and children suffer from malnutrition and skin diseases. Due to unsafe drinking water, poor sanitary facilities and limited health knowledge, outbreaks of waterborne diseases (typhoid, dysentery and diarrhoea) occur frequently. There is a need for immediate food distribution as well as water and sanitation interventions to ensure the survival of the people in the remote mountainous areas. Community capacity building in Lesotho is an issue as only very few LRCS branches are functioning.

Red Cross/Red Crescent Response

The LRCS will target 103,000 beneficiaries with food distribution through the World Food Programme (WFP), and an additional 5,000 beneficiaries under five years old will receive supplementary feeding. Finally procurement of food for 5,000 beneficiaries takes the total number of targeted beneficiaries up to 113,000. The LRCS enjoys a relatively positive image which has been gained through its past involvement in humanitarian activities, and has a nation wide presence of volunteers who have been trained in disaster response as part of the disaster response action teams throughout the LRCS's nine divisions. The LRCS's main sources of income are derived from rental of buildings and the sale of second hand clothing. The Society is currently carrying out a capacity assessment in the selected programme districts, Thaba-Tseka and Mokhotlong. Infrastructural improvements are needed with regards to transport, as the Society only has two operational vehicles, and communication. Assessments will be carried out in full participation with village chiefs and village communities. Owing to a recent restructuring process that has left the society vulnerable to added strain, LRCS will need to be supported by a delegate for the duration of the programme. In addition the operation will be supported by 1 relief delegate and 1 water & sanitation delegate based in-country.


- To ensure secure transportation of food from the main warehouse to distribution points, and to ensure timely and fair distribution to the targeted households.

- To provide nutritious food supplement to 5,000 under-fives in vulnerable households of targeted communities.

- To improve the availability of safe water and sanitation to maximise the efficiency and effectiveness of food distribution.

- To strengthen the operational capacity of the LRCS to respond to the food insecurity situation.

- A one month rotating supply of food will be procured and stored in two warehouses in Zambia and South Africa for resupply to the individual countries should there be a pipeline disruption or delay.