By Staff Writers

Maseru, Dec 08 (The Night’s Watch) – In 2021, projections indicate that Lesotho’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth will decelerate to negative 5.1 percent, crop production will drop by 30 percent and water insecurity will persist.

This is according to the UNICEF’s Humanitarian Action for Children appeal published in November.

The appeal helps support UNICEF’s work as it provides conflict-and-disaster-affected children with access to water, sanitation, nutrition, education, health and protection services.

The appeal further indicated that in 2021, access to education and social support systems will decline and reports of gender based violence will rise.

“The humanitarian situation in Lesotho has deteriorated due to a series of climatic shocks, including three consecutive seasons of drought, declining economic growth and the COVID-19 pandemic,” it read.

As of December 3, Lesotho had confirmed 2,145 COVID-19 cases and 44 deaths.

UNICEF said economic growth had continued to decline in Lesotho in recent years.

It said the GDP growth rate was projected to decelerate from 1.4 percent in 2019–2020 to 0.4 percent in 2020–2021 before the global shutdown; and has since been revised downwards to negative 5.1 percent for 2020–2021.

Also, the remittances of over 400,000 Basotho who were working in South Africa, according to UNICEF, had declined as migrants returned home due to job loss and COVID-19 lockdowns, increasing the vulnerability of households dependent on remittances (17 per cent of households).

“Access to health services remains limited, especially in rural areas, due to the long distances to facilities. COVID-19 has overstretched health systems and disrupted health service continuity,” read the appeal.

With the second highest HIV prevalence globally and in the absence of community HIV services due to COVID-19, Lesotho is facing heightened risks of HIV and unplanned pregnancies.

Adolescents and young people could be more vulnerable to new HIV infections, gender-based violence, unwanted pregnancies and child marriage, increasing the need for mental health and psychosocial support.

“Since March 2020, all 4,188 schools and early childhood development centres have been closed, affecting 511,000 learners, most of whom are in rural areas,” said UNICEF.

It added: “Access to formal and non-formal education has been greatly affected, and a significant number of children are at risk of dropping out permanently. Children’s routines and social support systems have been severely disrupted.”

It also said crop production had continued to decline for the third year in a row, suggesting that a 30 percent decline was projected for the 2019–2020 season, which will severely impact nutritional well-being.

“Lesotho experiences persistent water insecurity, and COVID-19 has further increased water and hygiene needs in schools, health facilities and communities,” it said.

UNICEF said food insecurity was expected to increase the overall number of people in need of humanitarian assistance from 508,000 people in 2019 (433,000 rural and 75,000 urban) to 766,000 people between October 2020 and March 2021 (582,000 rural and 184,000 urban).

This means that 40 percent of the rural population and 27 percent of the urban population will require humanitarian assistance. NW

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