Lesotho, like the rest of Southern Africa, is experiencing the impacts of an unprecedented El Niño weather phenomenon, including two consecutive years of drought and erratic rains.
At the peak of the crisis, the drought was classified to be the worst in the last 35 years, exposing more than 679,000 people (approx. 58% of the rural population) at risk of food insecurity. The Government of Lesotho (GoL) declared a state of emergency on 22 December 2015 in light of the drought that gripped the country since 2015 and will continue to negatively impact on Basotho people until mid-2017.
In support of the declaration of the state of emergency, the UN Humanitarian Country Team (HCT) has mobilised resources to respond to humanitarian needs in the food security, agriculture, health, nutrition, protection, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) and coordination sector. To date, humanitarian partners have been able to secure USD 40.7 million for the relief dimension of the response (more than 77% of the requested funds). The drought response in Lesotho is one of the best funded emergency responses in the Eastern and Southern African region against the financial requirements. The Government of Lesotho (GoL) has committed around USD 23 million through humanitarian interventions and a food subsidy program.
The food security situation has recently improved due to the availability of food from household harvests, improved incomes and decreasing staple prices. In 2017, the national crop forecast estimates a total crop production of 239,361 metric tonnes, the highest within the past ten years. A recent Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) analysis has predicted Lesotho to be at Phase 1 (minimal) of food insecurity until September 2017. Nonetheless, as of October 2017, Lesotho is projected to reach IPC Phase 2 (stressed) due to the expected lean season and the concurrent potential rise in staple prices. The June 2017 Lesotho Vulnerability Assessment and Analysis (LVAC) has projected a total of 306,942 people to be food insecure from September 2017 to March 2018 (224,664 rural and 82,278 urban).
A total of 466,563 beneficiaries have been reached so far through humanitarian interventions by humanitarian partners. The response is still ongoing and is scheduled to continue until August 2017. While most humanitarian relief activities have been completed, the outstanding interventions will be terminated in the upcoming weeks and form the transition to the resilience-building dimension. The GoL together with its partners is currently developing a National Resilience Strategy Framework to address chronic gaps in the climate change adaptation, food security, chronic malnutrition and health emergencies. Further interventions are also planned to strengthen emergency preparedness.
Regionally, the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) state has recently transitioned to neutral (neither El Niño nor La Niña). Nonetheless, according to the World Meteorological Organization’s (WMO) update from July 2017, there is currently a 35-45% chance of another global El Niño event forming in the second half of 2017. The Southern Africa Regional Climate Outlook Forum (SARCOF) meeting in August 2017 will provide a further update concerning the likelihood of another event during this year, factoring in regional weather patterns and trends.