Malawi president Bingu wa Mutharika Wednesday admitted that some pockets of his country have been riddled by hunger which has been aggravated by dry spells and effects of climate change. Speaking during the launch of the tree planting season, Mutharika, who has received numerous accolades for his administrations’ fight against hunger, warned Malawians not to sell their maize, the country’s staple diet, in the wake of information that some households are living without an idea where to get their next meal. He ordered chiefs and members of parliament to provide government with a list of the households that are threatened by hunger so that the state can start distributing relief food. Meanwhile, principal secretary in the department of disaster management Jeffrey Kanyinji has said, the department has already started distributing relief food items to hunger stricken districts since last December.
According to the Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee, (MVAC) about 201,854 people are at risk of food insecurity. Estimates released by the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security (MoAFS) projects a total production of 3,895,181 metric tonnes of maize for 2010/11 growing season. This year’s maize production estimate is higher and above the national food requirement estimated at 2,687,242 metric tonnes resulting in a maize production surplus of 1,200,461 metric tonnes. However, the Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee (MVAC) in its annual vulnerability assessment and analysis conducted in May 2011, it has found out that despite high production of maize at national level, there are localized food deficit areas, mostly in the southern parts of Malawi. The MVAC projects that a total of 201, 854 people, in the affected areas, will not meet their annual food requirements during the 2011/2012 consumption year. Vulnerable households are those that will not be able to meet their annual minimum food requirements after exhausting own stocks and employing several coping strategies. The most affected districs in the southern region are Nsanje, Chikwawa, Balaka, Blantyre, Chiradzulu, Mwanza, Neno ,Phalombe, Zomba, and Ntcheu where food deficiet range from 16% to 35% because of prolonged dry spells.
The Malawi VAC says the food deficit has been experienced as a result of erratic rainfall pattern and prolonged dry spells ranging from three to six weeks affecting crops at critical development stages. It recommends cash transfers or public works in the affected areas to improve food access of the vulnerable groups through markets. Further MVAC also recommends ADMARC and private traders to stock enough maize in the affected areas to stabilize supplies and cushion against abnormal price fluctuations. “As a long term measure, the Malawi VAC recommends a need to start re-thinking on how to approach vulnerability issues in the affected areas because the problems are recurrent and beyond the traditional interventions which have been used to address the situations year in year out,” says a MVAC report.