A new report by two United Nations agencies says that more than 400,000 people in Lesotho face food shortages due to the country’s most severe drought in 30 years.
The report, issued today by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Food Programme (WFP), estimates that 410,000 people of Lesotho’s 1.9 million inhabitants will struggle to meet their basic food needs due to “extensive” crop failure and “exorbitant” maize prices.
Soaring temperatures and low rainfall during the critical crop growing months of January,
February and March caused large-scale damage to crops. The drought was most severe in the lowlands, where the main production areas are located.
“All told, more than several million people in the region are at risk," said Kelly David, who heads the Southern Africa regional office of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). He appealed for urgent international assistance in order to support Lesotho in meeting the immediate and acute needs of those severely affected.
According to the UN report, Lesotho will require approximately 30,000 tonnes of cereals and 6,700 tonnes of other foods to meet its minimum food consumption needs. The situation is particularly serious for the poorest households who depend heavily on agricultural activities to produce their own food or for employment.
Drought conditions have also adversely affected maize production levels across the region, resulting in steep increases in maize prices. The price hikes will make it even more difficult for the most vulnerable, who purchase most of their food, to cope.
Lesotho is not the only country in the region facing food shortages in the coming months. More than 400,000 people in Swaziland and 2.1 million people in Zimbabwe will struggle to meet their basic food requirements due to regional drought conditions and other factors, according to FAO and WFP assessments.
National-led vulnerability assessments to determine household food security are also underway in Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe.