Mortality, malnutrition and the humanitarian response to the food crises in Lesotho

How to Cite

Renzaho A. Mortality, malnutrition and the humanitarian response to the food crises in Lesotho. Australasian Journal of Paramedicine [Internet]. 2015Jul.15 [cited 2020Dec.2];4(4). Available from:



At the height of the food crisis in southern Africa, the Government of Lesotho declared a state of famine and emergency in April 2002 and launched a Famine Relief Appeal for over $137 million. World Vision, in partnership with the World Food Program, became involved in December 2002 providing food aid to affected communities. The objective was to document mortality rates, causes of death, malnutrition prevalence, and the proportion of lost pregnancies after almost three years of humanitarian response to the food crisis in Lesotho and to propose a way forward.


A two-stage, 30 cluster household survey was undertaken in three districts from the 16th to the 26th of May 2005, with a sample size of 3610 people.


The crude mortality rate (CMR) of 0.8/10,000/day (95%CI: 0.7-0.9). The reported CMR was significantly lower than the CMR emergency threshold (<1/10,000/day). Using 2000 as a pre-drought baseline, 38528 excess deaths occurred between 2000 and 2005. The under-five mortality rate (U5MR) of 3.2 deaths/10,000/day (95%CI: 2.8-3.6/10,000/day) was 4 times the reported CMR and 1.4 times higher the U5MR emergency threshold for sub-Saharan Africa (2.3/10,000/day). CMR was lower among food aid beneficiaries (0.68; 95%CI: 0.57-0.79) than non-beneficiaries (1.42; 95%CI: 1.13-1.70). This was also true for U5MR (2.94; 95%CI: 2.39-3.50 versus 6.44; 95%CI: 5.21-7.68). The prevalence of wasting increased from 5.4% to 12% while that of stunting declined from 45.4% to 36.2% between 2000 and 2005, but the nutritional status did not vary by beneficiary status.


Despite the alarming U5MR, findings suggest that the food aid program ensured survival mainly among adults. The situation could have been catastrophic in the absence of humanitarian assistance.