In 2020, the effects of repeated droughts and the COVID-19 pandemic were significantly felt in Lesotho, especially among the most economically vulnerable population. According to the August 2020 Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), about 40 percent (582,000 people) of the rural population are projected to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) conditions or worse, and will likely face severe acute food insecurity during the lean season (October 2020–March 2021).
All 10 districts are projected to be in Crisis, with pockets of highly vulnerable populations in Emergency (Phase 4). According to the Lesotho Vulnerability Assessment Committee, COVID-19-related movement restrictions have further left households with reduced seasonal incomes, from 35 percent to 15 percent of income contributing towards household income. In October 2019, following the drought emergency declaration, WFP extended the emergency response that commenced in January 2019.
WFP assisted and improved the food consumption of approximately 117,820 vulnerable people (52 percent of whom were women and girls) between October 2019 and June 2020 in the hardest-hit southern districts of Mafeteng, Mohale’s Hoek, Quthing, and Qacha’s Nek. Each household received USD 50 per month, of which USD 28 was provided as a commodity voucher redeemable at local shops and USD 22 as mobile money for other essential needs.
In August 2020, following the COVID-19 emergency declaration, WFP launched emergency cash interventions for the first time in five urban councils of Maseru, Mafeteng, Mohale’s Hoek, Quthing, and Qacha’s Nek districts following reports that the number of food-insecure people had more than doubled in urban centres. The intervention targeted 52,500 people (of whom 52 percent were women and girls) and will continue into January 2021. The expansion into urban areas complemented the Government’s horizontal expansion of its social assistance programme.