Lesotho has made considerable progress in addressing child mortality and increasing life expectancy, but challenges remain. Malnutrition is the cause of 22 percent of child mortality, while 56 percent of deaths of children under 5 are attributed to HIV-related illnesses. About 24 percent of Lesotho’s population is living with HIV; malnutrition and HIV-related illnesses are physiologically linked.1 This has led to changes in social structures, resulting in reduced capacity to provide adequate nutrition and care for infants and children.
Currently, 42 percent of all children under 5 are stunted and 40 to 60 percent are at risk of impaired cognitive growth owing to micronutrient deficiencies.2 Stunting is partly a result of household food insecurity, which worsens during the lean season of January to March, when a third of households struggle to cover their food needs and provide children with an adequate diet. The situation is most severe in the mountainous region and in Berea district in the west.
This development project will reach more than 200,000 beneficiaries. It is WFP’s first development project in Lesotho to focus exclusively on combating chronic malnutrition. The project is part of the first Joint United Nations Nutrition Programme, which will support outcomes 1, 2 and 3 of the United Nations Development Assistance Framework 2008–2012. It is aligned with ongoing government policies and programmes to address vulnerability, presented in the National Development Plan 2008–2012, and is rooted in lessons learned from joint United Nations missions conducted in March and April 2010.
The project aims to prevent and reduce malnutrition among vulnerable groups in the four districts most affected by chronic malnutrition through four activities: i) improving management of acute malnutrition; ii) improving child growth and development, with particular attention to reducing stunting and micronutrient deficiencies; iii) improving nutrition and health practices; and iv) enhancing capacity to inform and managenational nutrition improvement programmes.