Hundreds of Thousands Go Hungry as Food Shortages Grip DroughtStricken Lesotho

GENEVA The United Nations is urgently appealing for $34 million to provide lifesaving support over the next four months for more than onequarter of a million people in Lesotho who are suffering from severe food shortages.

The mostly rural population of the small, landlocked country bordered by South Africa is almost entirely dependent on agriculture for its income. When the rains stop, so do the crops.

The country is in the grips of a severe drought. The United Nations reports half a million people, one quarter of Lesotho's population, is facing hunger. It says this year's poor harvest is putting many lives at risk, with some 71,000 people just one step away from famine.

Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs spokesperson Jens Laerke said the UN appeal aims to help half of the affected population survive this critical period.

The relief plan and the flash appeal include food and cash assistance, ensuring clean water in priority locations such as health facilities and schools; vaccinations to prevent disease outbreaks or spread of diseases; rehabilitation of water points and preparing for the next planting season; and nutritional interventions for malnourished children, pregnant women, and people living with HIV, he said.

Laerke also noted that Lesotho has the second highest HIV prevalence rate in the world at 25.6 percent. Ministry of Health data show an increase in cases of severe acute malnutrition. The Ministry said children under age five, expectant and lactating mothers, people living with HIV and those infected with tuberculosis are particularly vulnerable to malnutrition.

As the drought worsens, Laerke told VOA the number of people migrating in search of work is expected to increase.

One particular concern with those movements are that it makes, particularly women and childrengirls in particularvery vulnerable to sexual exploitation and abuse, he said. That is, of course, in and of itself deplorable and made even worse when the HIV prevalence rates are as high as I just mentioned.

Laerke said the flash appeal includes money for protection programs to try to prevent women and girls from putting their lives and wellbeing at risk.

Source: Voice of America

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