Nearly three million at risk in Malawi food crisis

By agency reporter
October 2, 2015

Close to three million people are predicted to face hunger and acute food shortages in Malawi in the coming months, with potentially devastating effects for the country’s most vulnerable communities, says Christian Aid.

Malawi’s most severe food crisis in a decade is a result of drought, late and erratic rains during the last farming season, and the extensive floods that destroyed homes, farm land and crops in southern districts earlier this year.

The State President of the Republic of Malawi, Peter Mutharika, last week appealed to governments, donors and non-governmental organisations to help over 2,800,000 people who are currently experiencing food insecurity. The country urgently needs tens of millions of dollars to provide food assistance to at-risk households.

Christian Aid’s Programme Manager for Malawi, Howard Nkhoma, based in the capital Lilongwe, said: “The situation is grave. Crops have suffered and food prices are rising: for instance, the production of maize – Malawi’s staple food – has dropped by 30 per cent in the past year, while maize prices have already risen by between 50 per cent and 100 per cent. This combination of factors has created the country’s first national food deficit in 10 years.

“Christian Aid is greatly concerned about people’s capacity to cope with this crisis. Malawi already has high rates of chronic and acute malnutrition, which will get even worse as people living in poverty see their food stocks dwindling. We are also worried about the impact on people living with HIV, who need good nourishment in order for their anti-retroviral treatment to work properly.

“Put simply, those at risk of food shortages are in a life-threatening situation, particularly in Phalombe, Nsanje and Chikwawa districts. Vulnerable households desperately need help to get basic food and nutrition.

“Christian Aid partners are taking part in recovery work in some communities. Christian Aid has been actively involved in the planning processes for the national response with the World Food Programme and the Government, who have been mobilising resources to provide food aid and cash transfers to affected households.”

Mr Nkhoma continued: “The country still has a funding gap of over US$130m. More funds are desperately needed, so that the worst-affected communities are given proper support to bridge the food-deficit gap and to ensure that women, children and men do not go hungry.

“For Christian Aid, our greatest priorities are breastfeeding mothers in poverty, children under five, people living with HIV on anti-retroviral treatment, and women-headed households.”

Malawi is among the world’s poorest countries and one of the most densely populated in Africa. It depends largely on agriculture, which accounts for more than a third of its GDP. However, many households lost their food reserves in the floods that affected some 630,000 people in January of this year.

Christian Aid partners have worked in the country’s rural southern communities for several years, helping families to develop and diversify their farming methods, and supporting them to build their resilience to future climate-related disasters.

In the aftermath of the flooding, our partners provided 40,000 people in Nsanje and Chikwawa districts with access to clean water, toilets facilities and temporary shelter.

* Christian Aid http://www.christianaid.org.uk/index.aspx

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