Lesotho is facing a major health crisis. With 23% of the population infected with HIV or suffering from AIDS, Lesotho has the third highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the world. The impact on health in Lesotho has been staggering, with life expectancy cut from 60 years in 1996 to 42 in 2007. Because of a lack of health professionals the country is struggling to test, treat and care for the victims of this epidemic. Countrywide there are just 89 doctors and less than 1500 nurses (WHO 2006), which means that only one in three people in need of urgent anti-retroviral treatment are receiving it.
The population also suffers from food insecurity, which has a big impact on health. A quarter of the population suffered from a lack of adequate food in 2007 (UNDP). Only 10% of the land is arable and Lesotho's cereal production has dropped from meeting 80% of national requirements in 1980 to 30% in 2004 and this figure is falling still. As a result, 20% of children under 5 are underweight for their age and 13% of the general population is undernourished.
UNICEF estimates that there are as many as 200,000 of Lesotho's school aged children and young people are orphans, having lost one or both parents to the AIDS pandemic. More than 1 in 10 children die before the age of 5 and that as many as 13,000 children under the age of 14 are infected with HIV, of which only 1500 are receiving life-saving anti-retroviral treatment.