GENEVA, Sept 28, 2012 (AFP) - More than 725,000 people face a food crisis in the tiny southern African nation of Lesotho after successive disastrous harvests cut production by 70 percent, the World Food Programme said Friday.
"Lesotho is facing the devastating effects of two successive crop failures due to drought and late rainfall," WFP spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs told reporters in Geneva.
More than one third of the country's nearly two million people were at risk because of the poor harvests, Byrs said, describing the crop deficit as a "catastrophe for this little country".
Production of maize, the main staple food in Lesotho, has declined by 77 percent compared with last year, the food agency said.
Levels of other cereals such as sorghum and wheat were down by 80 percent and 52 percent respectively, meaning that the country will have less than 10 percent of its requirements for 2012/13, the WFP added in a statement.
Among those facing the food crisis, 230,000 people were "particularly vulnerable" to hunger, the agency said, especially the very poor, orphans and those with HIV/AIDS, an illness that affects 25 percent of the population.
Announcing an appeal for $38 million (29.3 million euros) in association with other humanitarian partners, the WFP said it aimed to provide life-saving help to 118,000 "of the most deprived".
It would also meet the needs "of all 725,000 food-insecure people" by boosting crop production and improving food security, health and nutrition.
The development follows Lesotho's declaration of an emergency food crisis on August 9, Byrs said.