Lesotho is a mountainous lower middle-income country that occupies an area of 30,000 km2 and is ranked 158 out of 186 countries according to the 2012 UNDP Human Development Index.
One quarter of the country's 1.8 million people (source Census 2006) live in mountainous districts and about 67 percent are considered poor.
Key threats confining the country's development include chronic poverty, high unemployment rates, food insecurity exacerbated by weather-related shocks, widespread chronic malnutrition with stunting for children under five years at 39 percent, iron deficiency anaemia at 47 percent, HIV and AIDS at 23 percent-the third highest in the world. Grandparents often need to provide and care for orphans whose parents have died from AIDS - there are about 222,000 orphans in Lesotho.
Lesotho is facing the devastating effects of two successive crop failures compounded by a litany of socio-economic adversities. All evidence points to the likelihood of increased food insecurity affecting a large part of the population through the 2012/13 lean period. The Lesotho Vulnerability Assessment Committee (LVAC) estimates that at least 36% of the population (725,000 individuals / 145,000 households) will be food insecure. As a result, in 2012 the Prime Minister declared an Emergency Food Crisis and formally requested support from development partners and the international community. WFP and its partners are working on a coordinated response to the food crisis , while the Government has committed that they would continue to revitalize agriculture to attain food security.
Although 82 percent of the population is engaged in agriculture and informal sector activities in rural areas, this only contributes to about 10 percent of the GDP (down from 12 percent in 2001). Lesotho's "Education Sector Strategic Plan 2005-2015", aims to expand access to basic education for all and improve the quality and efficiency of the education system by providing free school meals. However many poor households cannot meet associated education costs. Enrolment and attendance in lower grades increased significantly in the wake of the Government's introduction of free primary education, however, drop-out rates are high at higher grades. Even with free education, many poor households cannot meet associated education costs.