The International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) Disaster Response Emergency Fund (DREF) has approved  a total M8.4 Million (469480 CHF)  for Lesotho Red Cross Society  for a five-year Drought Early Action Protocols (EAP) project.

The funds are divided into three phases, namely; immediate allocation of funds for readiness to the amount of M3.4 Million (189,621), Pre-positioning M74,590.00  (4.121 CHF) and 4.9 Million (27.5738 CHF) which is automatically allocated to implement early actions once reported.

This was revealed in the Lesotho Red Cross Society Early Action Protocol (EAP) document released in December 2022.

The report  stated that the first leg of the project consists of training of community-based disaster response teams(CBDRTs) , village disaster management teams(VDMTs),   Key stakeholders and LRCS Volunteers and staff countrywide.

According to the project manager Ms. Sebongile Hlubi, approximately 800 people will be trained countrywide starting from March  to end of the year 2023.

Hlubi indicated that the  first phase which  consists of capacity building will be followed by monitoring of  weather forecast by Lesotho Meteorological services (LMS). Upon receiving seasonal forecast indicating normal to below normal rainfall; the dissemination of early warning messages to 20,560 people  from 5,140 households, followed by unconditional cash transfer to 2640 will resume.

She said the selection of beneficiaries for cash transfer will be done using the government’s Public Assistance (PA) programmes waiting lists. The PA waiting lists contain people already assessed as vulnerable by government social workers and not yet in receipt of any cash support due to budget constraints,

The cash transfer will enable the vulnerable households to buy basic food prior to price increase. “Each household will receive M772.00 per month for two months”, she said.

“The  PA lists will be pre-screened and prepared annually ahead of drought. Then, once the threshold is reached the same lists will be verified and validated by relevant stakeholders. The collation of a waiting list will be done annually in collaboration with the Ministry of Social Development ( MoSD)  and the Disaster Management Authority    (DMA). In addition, the early warning messages will target the recipients of unconditional cash transfers and other community members Hlubi informed”

Hlubi revealed that Lesotho has national documents that shows that there is a return period of drought every year. These documents are Climate Adaptation Strategy, (NAPA) National  Adaptation Programs of Action, Early Warning Systems 1 and 2 and many others; “ and these are the documents that lead to the EAP  today, she added.

According to studies Lesotho experiences climate change impacts and shocks with drought being the most recurrent and impactful hazard over the last 100 years the EAP document revealed.

“Studies indicate that there is an increase in drought emergencies recorded over the 25-year period (1991/1992 – 2015/2016) in Lesotho and the most impactful drought events are agricultural and socio-economic in nature, as they deteriorate natural resource-based livelihoods along with reduced crop and livestock productivity undermining socio-economic assets bases and creating livelihood vulnerabilities. In the last 10 years, the country experienced three extreme drought episodes (2011/12, 2015/16,2018/19),” it added.

The EAP reported that the major impact of the above past episodes was food insecurity. “The situation is exacerbated by continuous crop failures, low incomes, and high food prices, with 41% of rural families spending more than half of their income on food”, the report added.

These extreme drought conditions required prompt interventions to reduce human suffering and loss of their livelihoods. Therefore, LRCS through this Early Action Protocol (EAP) aims to mitigate drought impacts through anticipatory actions (AA) in the districts that are anticipated to observe worst drought impacts, Hlubi stated.