Some 57 percent of the population of Lesotho lives on less than $1 a day. The Government contributes seven percent of its national budget to safety nets like school meals, pensions for the elderly, child grants and cash-for-work projects.
The high vulnerability situation is exacerbated by recurring climatic hazards, including droughts, early frost and a low-performing economy that has seen unemployment among 29 percent of people under age 35. Agriculture, which contributes to seven percent of the country’s GDP, is a major source of livelihood for 80 percent of the population living in rural areas. Lesotho was hit hard recently by an El Niño-exacerbated drought.
A 23 percent HIV prevalence rate contributes to high levels of vulnerability. The country has to provide care for more than 200,000 orphans, most of whom have lost their parents to AIDS. Life expectancy at birth is 49 years.