For a third consecutive year, hundreds of thousands of people in
Lesotho are going to need international help to survive due to
the combined effects of drought and Aids, a United Nations envoy
said on Thursday.
"Any hopes that Lesotho's humanitarian crisis would begin to ease
this year have been dashed," said James Morris, the UN special
envoy for humanitarian needs in Southern Africa.
Morris is travelling to the tiny mountain kingdom on Friday with
Unicef executive director Carol Bellamy and UNAids chief Peter
Piot to meet with government officials and visit some of the
The high-powered delegation will also attend the launch on
Saturday of a government programme aimed at persuading all one
million adults in Lesotho to test for HIV within a year.
Lesotho's government declared a state of emergency last month
when it became clear that the country was facing another year of
severe food shortages.
Early estimates indicate the country might only produce 10% of
its cereal requirements in 2004, leaving tens of thousands of
families dependent on food assistance, the United Nations said in
a statement on Thursday.
The World Food Programme has delivered over 50 000 tons of food
aid to over 370 000 people since the launch of emergency
operations in mid-2002.
But other aid projects, including ones providing better access to
water, sanitation, education and health care, will also be
essential, according to a statement issued in Johannesburg.
An estimated 31% of adults in Lesotho are infected with HIV, the
fourth highest rate in the world. About 70 people die every day
from Aids-related causes, and 73 000 children have been orphaned.
"Drought has slashed Lesotho's harvests over the past three
years, but HIV/Aids is at the root of the food crisis, as well as
of other crises in health and education," Piot said in the
"Lesotho's future depends on how successfully it tackles the
epidemic, and that depends on the help of the international