By Poloko Mokhele 

MASERU – A total of 487 857 of people living in Lesotho do not know where their next meal will come from and government requires over M200 million to address the food needs of the affected population.

This is because the rainfall received in all the ten districts was below average from September to November last year, which is the normal period for planting most crops.

This resulted in most of the crops across the country not reaching the expected stages of growth during the cropping season a decline in crop production of an estimated 21 percent.

These figures are contained in a press statement released by the Disaster Management Authority (DMA) on Thursday.

The statement read: “The current drought has impacted main income sources with a considerable decline in crop and livestock sales. Crop sales have decreased by an estimated 64 percent, while weeding by 53 percent, and lastly sales of livestock products by 70 percent.”

It added: “The Rapid Assessment results concluded that 487,857 people nationally are currently considered to be food insecure. Rural populations are worst affected, out of whom an estimated 28 percent making a total of 407,191 people are affected in comparison to 15 percent of the urban population to a total of 80,666 affected.”

This is an increase of 19 percent (273 635) from an update results of November 2018, and an increase of 18 percent (257 283) from May 2018.

The worst affected districts are Mohale’s Hoek, Quthing, Mokhotlong and Berea.

“The results indicate that the country is already experiencing a food gap of 25,255 metric tonnes of grain which will require a total of M203.728 million to address the food needs of the affected population,” the statement said.

DMA also indicated that government is concerned that the food security situation is expected to deteriorate further in the country from July 2019 to June 2020, with the food insecure population projected to increase to 640,000.

“The Government of Lesotho is already working with local and international partners to address the needs of all the affected Basotho and mitigate the impacts across the country. To that end, Government is exploring options to allocate resources and counts on the support of its partners,” the statement concluded.

In the 2017/2018 year, Lesotho’s food insecure population was 306 942 and increased by one percent to last year’s 308 966.

Food insecurity is identified as a critical barrier to adherence to antiretroviral therapy (ART) and retention in care among Human Immune Virus (HIV) and Tuberculosis (TB) infected adults, HIV infected pregnant women and their HIV exposed infants.

It is said that there is a growing evidence that links food and nutrition security with adherence to HIV and TB treatment, reduction in morbidity, prevention of transmission among adolescent girls and reduction in mortality among people living with HIV/AIDS.

Lesotho is one of the highest HIV prevalent countries in the world.

According to the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), the high prevalence of HIV and AIDS “accounts for more than 40 percent of all deaths in Lesotho”.

An estimated 330 000 people out of the two million population were living with HIV in 2016.

In the same year, 9 900 people died from AIDS-related illnesses.

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