MASERU – The European Union (EU) has announced new funding to the tune €24.5 million (M415.44 million) in humanitarian aid for the Southern Africa and Indian Ocean region, of which Lesotho will receive packages earmarked for humanitarian projects, education in emergencies disaster preparedness projects.
The grant comes at a time that vulnerable households in Lesotho have been particularly hard-hit after years of successive droughts and failed harvests.
Lesotho is currently struggling to address food insecurity, mostly caused by climate change. The funding package has been broken into €780, 000 for humanitarian projects, around €180, 000 is geared towards education in emergencies while the remaining €600, 000 will go to disaster preparedness projects.
Commissioner for Crisis Management, Janez Lenarcic, is quoted saying: “The Southern Africa and Indian Ocean region is highly vulnerable to various natural hazards, including cyclones, droughts and epidemics. In some countries of the region, this is exacerbated by a challenging political and socio-economic environment, while the overall situation is aggravated further due to the coronavirus pandemic.”
The EU assistance, he said, seeks to alleviate the humanitarian consequences on the most vulnerable populations, and improve disaster preparedness in the region. The World Food Program (WFP) Country Brief (2020) shows that Lesotho is experiencing a major food security crisis as a result of the El-Niño induced drought.
It addresses that the situation has been made worse by successive years of crop failures, low incomes and high food prices.
“Over 30 percent of the Lesotho population across all 10 districts will face high levels of acute food insecurity until March 2020. More than 70 percent of the population in rural Lesotho is engaged in subsistence farming. Productivity has been deteriorating since the early 1990s because of unpredictable weather conditions, including inconsistent rains and persistent and recurring droughts.
Maize is a staple diet of Lesotho, but just 9 percent of the country’s total landmass is suitable for cultivation. Despite this, 80 percent of the population lives in rural areas. Many poor rural households lack access to agricultural land, while those who do own land lack resources to maximize production, such as fertilizers and high-yield seeds,” reads the brief.
The brief further notes that Lesotho loses 7.13 percent of its GDP to chronic malnutrition, and around 33 percent of children under the age of five years are stunted, with a low height for their age.
It says nearly a quarter of the population is infected with HIV, with women being disproportionately affected due to gender-based violence. Around 80 percent of those living with HIV also have tuberculosis (TB).
“Lesotho is highly vulnerable to the impact of climate change, with droughts already affecting harvest yields and causing significant loss of livestock.
The climate is predicted to become warmer and dryer, making droughts and floods more frequent and intense. With less snow on the mountains and an increase in run-off rates, soil erosion will worsen and deplete the soil of nutrients. While some climate adaptation measures are being taken, the country lacks the resources for extensive mitigation, the brief noted.
The EU humanitarian aid to the region seeks to provide a response to the humanitarian consequences of the conflict in northern Mozambique, where €7.86 million of EU funding will be directed.
Furthermore, EU aid will provide assistance against the socio-economic crisis in Zimbabwe, to address food insecurity, and to support COVID-19 preparedness and response.
In Madagascar, the EU will provide assistance to address the severe food and nutrition crisis. A further €6 million will be dedicated to helping children across the whole region gain access to education. Another €8 million will be provided to improve the region’s disaster preparedness.
The Coronavirus pandemic exacerbated an already difficult situation in Southern Africa and the Indian Ocean. The region faces natural hazards, including recurring droughts and cyclones, on top of economic and political challenges.
Disasters represent a major source of risk for the most vulnerable populations and can undermine development gains. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, many poor households are having difficulty in meeting food and non-food needs because of lockdowns and other coronavirus-related restrictive measures.
Since 2014, the EU has mobilized over €237 million in assistance to the region, paying particular attention to disaster preparedness.
The EU provides aid in the form of emergency cash transfers to vulnerable people affected by disasters and is also helping address food and nutrition needs in affected areas.
With the security situation deteriorating in northern Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province, the EU is supporting vulnerable displaced and affected people with shelter, food, protection and access to healthcare.