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IRIN PlusNews HIV/AIDS News and information service | Southern Africa | LESOTHO: Numbers of people in need increasing, WFP/FAO | Economy | News Items
Sunday 25 December 2005
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LESOTHO: Numbers of people in need increasing, WFP/FAO

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]


Erratic weather has caused widespread crop failures

JOHANNESBURG, 22 June (PLUSNEWS) - Declining agricultural production and incomes have combined with HIV/AIDS to undermine the ability of Lesotho's poor to cope with external shocks such as drought, said a joint World Food Programme and Food and Agriculture Organisation report.

The recent WFP/FAO crop and food supply assessment mission conducted in Lesotho found that the country was facing a "triple threat of increasing chronic poverty, rising rates of HIV/AIDS and weakened government capacity".

According to the Vulnerability Assessment Committee, 548,000 people will have "a significant food deficit between June 2005 and March 2006", and will require about 20,200 mt of food aid.

"Domestic cereal production in 2004/05 is estimated at 119,000 mt, consisting of 92,129 m of maize, 16,442 mt of sorghum and 10,339 mt wheat," the assessors said.

While production showed an improvement of about 15 percent over last year's, it was about 84 percent of the five-year average.

"Lesotho's cereal production appears to be on a downward trend, especially in the main producing districts of Berea, Butha-Buthe, Leribe and Maseru. This is cause for concern and should be fully investigated. Endemic soil erosion, weather-related disasters and the impact of the HIV/AIDS pandemic are likely to be major underlying causes," the report observed.

The 'triple threat' has taken a heavy toll, particularly on the households of the rural poor in Lesotho, "who are faced with a limited number of coping strategies to respond to the intensifying hazard".

A UN Country Assessment found that 59 percent of the population are living below the poverty line, and about 40 percent of the population of Lesotho fall into the 'ultra-poor' category.

"Studies indicate that HIV/AIDS is a leading factor in the drastic reduction of household income for much of the population. Against this background, falling agricultural production, trade constraints, and collapsing employment opportunities combine to increase the vulnerability of poor households to food insecurity," the UN agencies noted.

HIV/AIDS had become not just a health issue for the government, "but rather a development issue with social, economic and cultural implications".

World Bank estimates predict that Lesotho's GDP will be halved by 2015, with HIV/AIDS having a clear effect on household food security.

Despite evidence of increasing need in Lesotho, aid agencies have struggled to run existing programmes aimed at assisting people affected by the previous year's crop failures.

"With food aid stocks and pipeline as of 1 April at 61,000 mt, there remains an uncovered deficit of 19,000 mt (6,000 mt of maize, 13,000 mt of sorghum) which need to be covered by additional donor assistance," the report pointed out.

WFP's deputy country representative, Mads Lofvall, had earlier told IRIN that the agency had to suspend its operations throughout Lesotho towards the end of May due to a shortfall in funding.

By early June the agency had managed to secure some funding and was planning to reach 80,000 people, out of the 240,000 it had initially planned to assist.

"We are having to make very difficult choices [about who gets aid]," Lofvall commented, "... as the number of orphans keeps going up and the number of HIV/AIDS patients keeps growing."


Recent LESOTHO Reports
ARV treatment for children slowly becomes available,  19/Jul/05
New bill gives children comprehensive protection,  24/Jun/05
Food aid cuts loom due to lack of funds,  13/Jun/05
First ever national PWA network finally gets off the ground,  12/Apr/05
The need for treatment could jeopardise the quality of care,  6/Apr/05
Le portail d'informations générales de la Côte d’Ivoire
The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria

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