THE World Food Programme (WFP) has secured US$2 million funding to assist 44 000 Basotho who are experiencing food shortages in four districts.
In a statement, WFP said the money will be used to purchase food for people in the Mokhotlong, Thaba Tseka, Maseru and Qacha’s Nek districts.
The German government and the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) each contributed US$1 million to enable the WFP to launch the lean season assistance programme for food insecure households in the four districts from October 2021 to March 2022.
“WFP received US$ 1 million from the Government of Germany and another US$ 1 million from the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO),” WPF said in its statement.
“This will enable the (Lesotho) country office to launch the lean season assistance from October 2021 to March 2022 targeting 44 000 people in Mokhotlong, Thaba Tseka, Maseru and Qacha’s Nek districts. The targeting and verification exercises are ongoing to make sure that the assistance is directed to the most vulnerable people.”
The WFP initiative comes against the background of warnings that beginning this month, food insecurity in most households in Lesotho will increase and possibly reach “crisis” levels.
The warning was delivered by the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) in its September 2021 report on Lesotho.
It said the expected crisis was due to the depletion of many households’ food stocks from the 2020/21 harvests. Many families will therefore rely on market purchases of maize meal to augment their food supplies. However, they will have to dig deeper into their pockets as maize meal prices are at a five-year high and likely to increase further in January 2022, FEWS NET warns.
FEWS NET is a leading provider of early warning and analysis on food insecurity. Created by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in 1985 to help decision-makers plan for humanitarian crises, FEWS NET provides reports on the food situation in 28 countries including Lesotho.
FEWS NET uses the Integrated Phase Classification (IPC) system which has different categories for the classification of the food security situation in different countries.
Countries in IPC Phase 1 are those with minimal food insecurity while those in IPC Phase 2 are said to be in a “stressed situation. Those in IPC Phase 3 are in a “crisis” while those in Phase 4 are experiencing a “famine”.
In its report on the food situation in Lesotho, FEWS NET said the overall 2020/2021 grain harvests was 23, 5 percent greater than last year.
This had resulted in greater food security for many households from April to September this year.
However, the situation would deteriorate starting this month as households exhaust their food stocks, the report states.
“Crisis outcomes are expected to emerge in some areas of Lesotho. These outcomes are expected to persist through January 2022, with the food insecure population peaking around January.
“Poorer households are expected to be market reliant due to the depletion of own-produced foods. Household income is expected to remain below average, driving below average purchasing power and declines in food access,” the report states.
The report indicates that food insecure households’ problems will be aggravated by the high prices for the staple maize meal on the market.
“Maize meal prices remain above the five-year average. With the lean season coming, maize meal prices are likely to increase further due to increases in market demand. This will likely erode purchasing power for market-dependent, very poor, and poor households,” the report states.
Meanwhile, WFP also said it will continue with funding an initiative to feed at least 50 000 young learners across the country.
“WFP continues to provide financial support for the provision of school meals at pre-primary level to 50 000 pre-school children. Preparations are ongoing for the fourth quarter deliveries of fortified maize meal and canned fish to 2000 pre-primary schools across the country,” WFP said.