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LESOTHO: Humanitarian situation worsens as drought lingers

johannesburg, 18 August 2003 (IRIN) - Prolonged drought has worsened the humanitarian situation in Lesotho, the World Food Programme (WFP) told IRIN on Monday.

WFP Country Representative Techeste Zergaber said the situation in the tiny mountain kingdom was deteriorating "after five months of drought".

In its latest situation report WFP noted that "there was no significant precipitation in the country between 11 May and 9 August. As a result, winter crops such as wheat, peas and vegetables have largely failed and spring cultivation is more difficult in dry conditions and is likely to be delayed".

As a result of "the hardship that these conditions are creating, WFP is considering advancing the start date of its Targeted Food Distribution ... programme, which is currently planned to start in November".

Cereal production this year was about 60 percent of the five-year average but sharply declining employment opportunities have also reduced peoples' ability to buy food.

A joint WFP and Food and Agriculture Organisation Crop and Food Supply Assessment said in June that "the number of beneficiaries will vary from 125,000 to about 270,000 during the lean period [between harvests]".

The agencies estimated that an estimated 32,000 mt of cereal food aid was needed for distributions to targeted households.

The mission had recommended targeted food assistance to households that had lost their crops entirely and had no livestock, and those affected by HIV/AIDS.

However, the situation of vulnerable households has deteriorated since then.

"The winter drought - which might not mean much for the rest of Southern Africa but it is a very serious [situation] for us - has meant that the winter wheat was not planted, people have not been getting any vegetables (this is the vegetable season) to compliment their [diets]. The production of green peas has also been hampered. These are all the elements that contribute to the fact that we need to revisit our plans [regarding food aid distributions]," Zergaber noted.

As to prospects for a recovery, Zergaber added that much depended on favourable weather conditions.

"We hope the rains will come in time, in September, so people can plant," he said.

Last week WFP had given relief rations, including maize, pulses, vegetable oil and corn-soya blend, to 10,345 beneficiaries.

Theme (s): Food Security,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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