In the heart of Maseru, along Kingsway Street, the informal stalls are a lifeline for many families, providing sustenance and hope amidst the daily hustle.
However, a cloud of uncertainty looms as maize meal prices continue to soar, casting a shadow over these vibrant scenes.
The latest Lesotho – Remote Monitoring Report from the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) paints a challenging picture for families already burdened by high living costs.
“The high prices are likely impacting household purchasing power,” the report grimly stated.
The September 2023 annual inflation rate surged to 5.8 percent from August’s 5.2 percent, with notable increases observed primarily in food and non-alcoholic beverages (up by 2.1 ppt), alcoholic beverages and tobacco (1.6 ppt), and housing, water, electricity, and gas (0.7 ppt).
Despite a significant 8.2 percent reduction in the cost of passenger transport services and a notable 14.2 percent decrease for restaurants and cafes, the report grimly emphasized that the cost of food in Lesotho persists at 6.2 percent higher than the previous year.
Among those feeling the pinch is ‘Tlaleng Mosuoe’ (pseudonym used for anonymity), an 18-year-old mother, whose worries reflect the shared concerns of many.
“With prices going up, it is getting harder to ensure my three-month-old child has clothes and nappies,” Tlaleng lamented, her distress mirroring the sentiments of numerous others struggling to cope.
“I’m not just struggling to get clothes for the kid; I don’t even have anything to eat,” she sobbed, standing on the steps inside the Carlton Centre where she had come seeking assistance from the radio stations housed within the building.
Her plea for assistance echoes the broader fear outlined in the report.
The report, published this week, highlighted a silver lining – vegetable production and a promising winter wheat harvest expected in December and January. These prospects offer a glimmer of hope for families struggling to make ends meet.
However, the overarching fear remains.
The report suggests that despite these positive indicators, vulnerable households – classed under IPC Phase 2 – will likely continue to face stress due to elevated food prices.
These households, while managing minimal food consumption, grapple with the inability to afford crucial non-food necessities without resorting to extreme measures.
“The cost of living keeps skyrocketing,” emphasized ‘Matlaleng Mosuoe, mother of Tlaleng, during a recent telephone interview with this publication, echoing the sentiment of countless others.
She appealed to compassionate souls to come to the aid of her grandson.
Lesotho’s challenges extend beyond immediate price hikes. The country grapples persistently with hunger.
With a Global Hunger Index (GHI) score alarming at 35.5, Lesotho grapples with a profound challenge in ensuring sufficient nutrition for its population.
In the 2023 GHI rankings, Lesotho secured the 121st spot out of 125 countries with adequate data for GHI scores. This score of 35.5 signifies a distressing level of hunger within the nation.
The GHI serves as a comprehensive tool for tracking hunger globally, regionally, and nationally. It relies on four crucial indicators: undernourishment, child stunting, child wasting, and child mortality.
These components encompass insufficient caloric intake, chronic undernutrition leading to low height for children under age five, acute undernutrition causing low weight for height, and child mortality before the fifth birthday, often stemming from inadequate nutrition and unhealthy environments.
The severity of hunger is depicted through GHI scores on a 100-point scale, where 0 signifies no hunger, and 100 represents the worst scenario.
Each country’s GHI score is categorised based on severity, ranging from low to extremely alarming, shedding light on the gravity of the hunger crisis within communities.
Yet, amidst these concerns, there are rays of hope.
Remote Monitoring Report illuminated ongoing wheat harvesting and favourable conditions for the planting of main season cereals.
It stated that the Ministry of Agriculture’s initiative to subsidise fertilizer and seeds for the upcoming farming season was a beacon promising a potential boost to farming activities and household incomes.
As the report detailed, rainfall varied across the country, offering a mixed bag of blessings and challenges. While some regions experienced a promising start to the rainy season, others, particularly the agriculturally productive areas, awaited the life-giving rains.