The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) welcomes the European Union’s (EU) contribution of €2.8 million (M55.5 million) to provide much needed relief assistance to the most vulnerable people in Lesotho affected by three consecutive years of drought and the socio-economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The contribution is part of a larger EU grant of €4.4 million (M87.3 million) to support joint emergency response interventions led by WFP in conjunction with the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the International Organisation of Migration (IOM). WFP will assist 34,000 severely food insecure people living in urban areas of the five worst affected districts by expanding the government’s Public Assistance Programme. Each household will receive €47 (M831) per month via MPESA, a mobile money platform. This cash assistance will give them a choice to purchase what they need most at local markets.
“We thank the EU for their continuous support to the emergency response operations WFP is rolling out across the country to complement the government’s COVID-19 Food Security Response Plan,” said Aurore Rusiga, WFP’s Country Director in Lesotho. “WFP’s operations in Lesotho are only 23 percent funded and require an additional €18.5 million to assist communities affected by emergency levels of food insecurity and the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The EU’s funding comes at a crucial time when over 40 percent of the population across the country is experiencing acute food insecurity. Food production has continued to decline for the third consecutive year whilst food prices have increased due to COVID-19 lockdown measures.
Border closures have severely reduced remittances and many migrant workers are returning to Lesotho after losing their jobs. Moreover, the Government of Lesotho’s COVID-19 Food Security Response Plan has estimated a resource gap of €32.7 million (M643 million) that hinders an adequate response to the emergency faced by the country.
“We decided with our partners from the Lesotho Government and UN agencies that we should focus on alleviating the socio-economic hardships experienced by Basotho citizens due to the pandemic as well as the necessary lockdown” said Christian Manahl, EU Ambassador to Lesotho. “We are aware that people in urban and peri-urban areas who lost their jobs or businesses have been particularly hard hit, and we want to contribute to mitigating their suffering as a consequence of the pandemic.”
The impact of COVID-19 on livelihoods and access to food has required WFP to expand into urban areas of Lesotho, which were historically more food secure. Thanks to donors like the EU, WFP is able, for the first time, to support vulnerable communities in these areas.
WFP will continue to assist nearly 80,000 people across the country with monthly cash and food assistance to ensure they have access to nutritious and healthy food.Distributed by APO Group on behalf of World Food Programme (WFP).