Lesotho: Hunger Emergency Escalates

Women collect water from a communal tap in the village of Ha Rantismane in Lesotho’s mountainous Thaba-Tseka District.
21 September 2012

A poor rainy season has led to a dramatic increase in the proportion of Lesotho's population needing humanitarian assistance.

The number of people suffering from hunger in Lesotho has risen sharply this year, according to new findings released by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). Around 39% of Lesotho's population will need humanitarian assistance during 2012-2013, an increase of 514,000 compared to last year.

A lack of rainfall has led to a dramatic 70% drop in cereal production compared to the previous year.

Lesotho, a landlocked country completely surrounded by South Africa, is now forced to import more of its food. This has made food more expensive, including a 33% increase in the price of maize meal, the staple food. The FAO states that, "the low domestic cereal harvest in 2012 is expected to maintain the high upward pressure on prices".

Families in Lesotho will run out of their own food supplies earlier and be forced to buy more food on the market, which they have little resources to do. Many families in Lesotho are in poverty even before such an emergency strikes.

According to a fact sheet from the UN World Food Programme (WFP), 67% of the population in Lesotho are considered poor. Chronic malnutrition among small children and micronutrient deficiencies such as anaemia are estimated to affect 39 - 65% of the population.

The WFP adds that both the levels of anaemia and stunted growth are well above emergency international thresholds. To help Lesotho fight hunger, WFP is providing aid for malnourished children, assistance to farmers and also helping the government build a national school feeding program.

WFP relies on voluntary funding and will need to maintain a steady supply of food to assist Lesotho through this hunger emergency.

William Lambers is the author of Ending World Hunger: School Lunches for Kids Around the World. His other books include The Roadmap to End Global Hunger, Nuclear Weapons, The Road to Peace: From the Disarming of the Great Lakes to the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and

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