The Government of Lesotho and the UN in Lesotho officially launched a Maximum Intervention Programme (MIP), aimed at enhancing food and nutrition security in the country. The MIP is supported by the Renewed Efforts against Child Hunger (REACH), an inter-agency (FAO, WHO, UNICEF, WFP and IFAD) partnership that aims to support the government of Lesotho by promoting a country-owned and country-led, multi-sectoral approach to addressing malnutrition.
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted many nutrition programmes and activities, forcing United Nations agencies and other organizations to revisit previous priorities and to adjust to the â€˜new normalâ€™.
On behalf of the United Nations in Lesotho United Nations Resident Coordinator Salvator Niyonzima passed his heartfelt gratitude when launching the MIP and National Response on Food and Nutrition.
â€œOne of the first actions the UN Network (UNN) undertook was to contact all the UN members and government stakeholders to discuss what they could do quickly. A National Integrated Response Plan for COVID-19 had been prepared at the beginning of March but food and nutrition security needed to be emphasized further.
â€œLesothoâ€™s lockdown measures led to both the public and private sectors closing all services, with severe repercussions on food and nutrition security. At the community level, food access and availability have been particularly constrained. According to the Lesotho Vulnerability Assessment Committee report (2020), the country is facing increased socio-economic hardship with a projected rise in its food insecure population from 380,000 to 582,000 (by March 2021) for all the 10 districtsâ€ Niyonzima stated.
He indicated that â€œIn 2015, Lesotho was among the seven countries in the world that have shown progress in improving child nutrition outcomes, as evidenced by the 6-percentage point reduction in stunting in a period of five years,decreasing from 39% in 2009 (39%) to 33.2% in 2014. Unfortunately, the 2018 MICS (Multi-Indicator Cluster Survey), shows a slight reversal of the gains made where stunting rates increased again to 34.2 %. This shows a chronic food and nutrition security challenge which requires a collective multispectral approach.
â€œAllow me to briefly talk about The Maximum Intervention Programme (MIP) Approach. We realised that we had to strategically attend to those districts that were already affected by high rates of malnutrition, especially stunting and anaemia: Quthing, Mokhotlong, Thaba-Tseka, Butha-Buthe, and Mohaleâ€™sHoek.
â€œThe selected intervention used a cross-sectoral approach aimed at diversifying diets in hard-to-reach areas and among the most vulnerable populations, through food production, promotion and awareness of appropriate infant and young child feeding as well as optimal hygiene behaviours. We know that a successful nutrition programming is dependent on multispectral participation, national leadership and engagement of local actors.
â€œThe maximum intervention programme is a package of interventions which brings out solutions to our malnutrition challenges in the country in a multispectral way. With food production we ensure that households have access to nutritious food all year long. With accompanying nutrition and hygiene information we ensure that caregivers are aware of the importance of breastfeeding in a clean environment .
Moreover â€œThrough micronutrient supplementation and fortification, we ensure that children get all the necessary micronutrients to prevent deficiencies and support growth. This package of interventions when coupled with social safety nets (Food Basket, Cash Transfers and School Feeding programmes etc) are impactful in protecting livelihoods in our communities, ultimately preventing inappropriate coping mechanisms.
The nutrition situation in Lesotho remains of great concern. According to the 2018 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey, stunting rates among children under 5 years of age remain high at 34.5%. , Micronutrient deficiencies are rife among children aged 6 to 59 months, 52% of these have an iron deficiency/ anaemia. Over 27% of girls and women and 14 % of boys and men in the 15-49 age range are also anaemic.
The Maximum Intervention Programme was officially launched in Quthing, Qomo-qomong, in the village of Ha Ramosoeu where members of the community were provided with educational materials guiding vegetable production, which aims to promote dietary diversity. The community was also provided with information on child feeding during COVID19 as well as on hand and respiratory hygiene.
The Programme will be implemented in four districts with high stunting rates namely: Mokhotlong, Botha-Bothe, Thaba-Tseka and Quthing. The programme will support the diversification diets in hard-to-reach areas and among the most vulnerable populations by introducing community-based promotion and production of highly nutritious foods. ffff