MASERU–The World Food Programme (WFP) has started distributing unconditional cash to 10,000 people affected by the El Niño-induced drought in Mohale’s Hoek district.
A targeting exercise underway in Mafeteng district will also pave way for the provision of money to 10,915 people in that district later this month.
Last month, WFP, through its drought-emergency response, started providing M1,020 to each of the 2,000 families affected by the drought in Mohale’s Hoek and would soon distribute the same amount to 2,183 individual households in Mafeteng district also facing a similar predicament.
WFP’s Emergency Fund provided M16.4 million, which will provide assistance to 4,183 families most affected by the drought in the two districts. On average, the unconditional cash-transfers will support 20,915 people. The families will receive cash for three months while WFP continues mobilising additional resources for a wider emergency response beyond June 2016.
Lesotho is one of the countries worst affected by the drought in the southern African region. The government declared a drought emergency on 22 December 2015 and appealed for humanitarian assistance on 5 February 2016.
However, despite intense fundraising efforts by development partners in Lesotho, the drought is yet to attract the much-needed funding in order to save the lives of the most vulnerable people, including children, people living with HIV and many hungry subsistence farmers who could not plant crops due to the extreme temperatures experienced between October and December 2015.
The results of a Joint Drought Rapid Assessment released early last month showed the number of people in need of food assistance has increased to 534,000 people—up from 464,000, according to the 2015 Vulnerability Assessment. The half-a-million people, who exclude those in urban areas, will need food assistance until June 2016.
WFP, working with the government, recently conducted a Market Assessment, which among other issues, assessed the functionality of the markets among other food price-related matters. This will complement results from the Rapid Assessment.
Last Saturday, WFP Country Director, Ms Mary Njoroge, visited some families who have received cash assistance in Mohale’s Hoek district.
“WFP is providing cash as an immediate intervention to respond to the effects of the severe drought on families relying solely on agriculture and not expecting to harvest anything this year. The intervention also aims to help families that do not receive any social assistance and without any viable source of income or productive asset as a result of the drought,” says Ms Njoroge, adding WFP is appealing for in-kind and in-cash assistance for the many farming families who have lost livestock and are expecting their next harvest in June 2017, provided weather conditions are favourable.
“We have started providing assistance but the major challenge is that the needs are overwhelming and this support is a drop in an ocean. Harder times lie ahead because many farming families, who constitute 80 percent of the country’s population, have consumed all the food they harvested last year. Food prices are already beyond the reach of many people, including those in urban areas.”
In most rural areas, the staple maize meal price has increased by between 30 and 50 percent since December 2015. High demand for basic food items such as maize meal, meat, vegetables and flour in southern Africa will continue triggering increases and also the cost of living.
‘Manthabiseng Moletsane is one of the families visited by the WFP Country Director. A widow looking after a family of 12, Ms Moletsane received M1,020 last Thursday. She used the money to buy 25kg of maize meal, 12.2kg of flour, a kilogramme of beans, a kilogramme of sugar, 500gramme salt, 750ml vegetable oil, a carton of matches, some paraffin and a bar of soap. Under normal circumstances, the family relies on subsistence farming and working in other people’s fields.
“I am very grateful for the help my family received from WFP. Before receiving the money we were begging for food from neighbours who had started complaining because their stocks are now depleted,” says Ms Moletsane.
The Disaster Management Authority used the results of the Rapid Assessment to identify the most affected councils in the targeted districts of Mafeteng and Mohale’s Hoek.
In Mohale’s Hoek, five of the seven councils were selected while the most vulnerable people in all the eight councils of Mafeteng will receive cash-assistance between March and May 2016.
In this immediate emergency response, WFP is also working with other partners including Word Vision International, Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, Ministry of Forestry, Range and Soil Conservation and Standard Lesotho Bank, through which cash payments are made. -WFPLesotho