Humanitarian Action for Children
UNICEF’s Humanitarian Action for Children appeal helps support the agency’s work as it
provides conflict- and disaster-affected children with access to water, sanitation, nutrition,
education, health and protection services. Return to main appeal page.
- Climatic shocks, declining economic growth and the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic have worsened the humanitarian situation in Lesotho. In 2021, projections indicate that Lesotho’s gross domestic product growth will decelerate to negative 5.1 per cent; crop production will drop by 30 per cent; water insecurity will persist; access to education and social support systems will decline; and reports of gender-based violence will rise. Overall, the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance has increased from 508,000 in 2019 to 766,000 in 2020.
- UNICEF will support 383,000 people, including 321,000 children, in Lesotho by strengthening integrated community health systems, providing water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services, supporting accelerated and safe learning in schools and reaching vulnerable children with child grants.
- UNICEF is requesting US$6.7 million to meet humanitarian needs in Lesotho, particularly WASH, education, child protection and social protection needs.
Key planned results for 2021
262,000 children and women accessing health care
321,000 children accessing water, sanitation and hygiene services in learning and safe spaces
75,000 women and children accessing gender-based violence risk mitigation / prevention / response
383,000 people reached through messaging on access to services
Funding requirements for 2021
Country needs and strategy
The humanitarian situation in Lesotho has deteriorated due to a series of climatic shocks, including three consecutive seasons of drought, declining economic growth and the COVID-19 pandemic. As of September, Lesotho had confirmed over 1,300 COVID-19 cases and 33 deaths.
Economic growth has continued to decline in Lesotho in recent years. The gross domestic product growth rate was projected to decelerate from 1.4 per cent in 2019–2020 to 0.4 per cent in 2020–2021 before the global shutdown; and has since been revised downwards to negative 5.1 per cent for 2020–2021. The remittances of over 400,000 Basotho who were working in South Africa have declined as migrants return home due to job loss and COVID-19 lockdowns, increasing the vulnerability of households dependent on remittances (17 per cent of households).
Access to health services remains limited, especially in rural areas, due to the long distances to facilities. COVID-19 has overstretched health systems and disrupted health service continuity. With the second highest HIV prevalence globally and in the absence of community HIV services due to COVID-19, Lesotho is facing heightened risks of HIV and unplanned pregnancies. Adolescents and young people could be more vulnerable to new HIV infections, gender-based violence, unwanted pregnancies and child marriage, increasing the need for mental health and psychosocial support.
Since March 2020, all 4,188 schools and early childhood development centres have been closed, affecting 511,000 learners, most of whom are in rural areas. Access to formal and non-formal education has been greatly affected, and a significant number of children are at risk of dropping out permanently. Children’s routines and social support systems have been severely disrupted.
Crop production has continued to decline for the third year in a row. A 30 per cent decline is projected for the 2019–2020 season, which will severely impact nutritional well-being. Lesotho experiences persistent water insecurity, and COVID-19 has further increased water and hygiene needs in schools, health facilities and communities.
Food insecurity is expected to increase the overall number of people in need of humanitarian assistance from 508,000 people in 2019 (433,000 rural and 75,000 urban) to 766,000 people between October 2020 and March 2021 (582,000 rural and 184,000 urban). This means that 40 per cent of the rural population and 27 per cent of the urban population will require humanitarian assistance.
UNICEF will support the Government of Lesotho to respond to the humanitarian needs of 383,000 people, including 321,000 children, affected by drought and COVID-19 through the implementation of life-saving nutrition, health, WASH, social and child protection, education and HIV and AIDS interventions. The remaining people in need will be reached by the Government and other agencies.
UNICEF will provide technical support for the treatment and prevention of acute malnutrition and other co-morbidities. In addition to providing supplies, UNICEF will strengthen community-based nutrition information, monitoring and referral systems and infant and young child feeding activities.
The WASH response will include the provision of life-saving access to drought-resilient and safe water and hygiene services in communities, health care facilities and schools. UNICEF’s strategy will aim to enhance the resilience of communities and institutions to climate and health emergencies by strengthening community-based and institutional management systems.
The health and HIV response will focus on enhancing the continuity of essential health services, including sexual and reproductive health services, and supporting the provision of community-based integrated essential health services, prioritizing people living with or at risk of HIV, adolescent girls and young women, orphans and returning migrant populations. Given the high HIV prevalence in Lesotho, UNICEF will support the immediate humanitarian needs of pregnant women and children at risk of or living with HIV.
In education, UNICEF will provide technical support for the development and implementation of guidelines for safe school operations, strategies for reopening schools, and accelerated and remedial learning programmes, to increase access to quality formal and non-formal education. UNICEF will target disadvantaged learners, particularly primary school students, with numeracy and literacy instruction, and adolescents transitioning from primary to secondary education, emphasizing rural boys.
In child protection, UNICEF will work to strengthen the knowledge and skills of teachers and other front-line workers, improve post-rape health and psychosocial support, enhance individual gender-based violence case management systems and referrals and strengthen information on protection services. UNICEF will help children access adequate alternative care arrangement and protection services and re-activate the Child Helpline for reporting cases and providing referrals.
Social safety nets will help the most affected children and their families cope with the drought and the impacts of COVID-19 using the Government's existing humanitarian cash transfer system to ensure that grants are given only to deserving children. Communication for development approaches will be used across sectors to strengthen community engagement.
Humanitarian Action is at the core of UNICEF’s mandate to realize the rights of every child. This edition of Humanitarian Action for Children – UNICEF’s annual humanitarian fundraising appeal – describes the ongoing crises affecting children in Lesotho; the strategies that we are using to respond to these situations; and the donor support that is essential in this response.