Low funds force WFP to cut Lesotho food purchases

MASERU, June 15 (Reuters) - Poor donor funding is forcing the United Nations food aid agency World Food Programme to buy only a third of the volume of food it needs to feed vulnerable groups in Lesotho, the agency says.

Deputy country director for Lesotho Mads Lofvall told Reuters the agency had been looking to import some 3,000 tonnes of food a week -- much of it maize from neighbouring South Africa -- but was only managing to import 1,000 tonnes.

"In terms of harvest, this year is a little better than last year but in terms of the food need it is greater because of deepening poverty," he said late on Tuesday.

Deaths from AIDS in a country where HIV has infected almost a third of adults, coupled with 10,000 redundancies from Asian owned textile firms have left many families in the mountain kingdom, which is enclosed entirely within the borders of South Africa, with little or no income.

While fields across the border in South Africa's Free State are seeing their best maize harvest in over a decade, years of soil erosion, the deaths of subsistence farmers and poor farming techniques have seen Lesotho facing five years of poor harvests.

Across southern Africa, WFP and other agencies say funding is drying up, with many Western donors saying they spent much of their aid budgets early in the year on the Asian tsunami.

In Lesotho, Lofvall said rations were being cut back and the agency was able to feed 80,000 of the most vulnerable instead of the 240,000 it believed needed help. Lesotho had 100,000 AIDS orphans alone, he said, adding he feared serious problems.

"We are seeing a rise in malnutrition," he said.

"We're not seeing a lot of it yet but it is creeping up. If we are not able to assist people then we will see a big rise in the coming months," he added.


Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
For more humanitarian news and analysis, please visit https://www.trust.org/alertnet