Government of Malawi, along with the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and other partners, have started food distributions to assist those hit by crop failure and high food prices.
As many as 15 out of 28 districts are affected by deteriorating food security, according to the recent Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee (MVAC) report, drawn up by a committee comprising the Government, UN agencies, and academic and non-governmental organisations.
So severe is the situation that an estimated 1.6 million Malawians will need food assistance in coming months, eight times as many as during the last lean season.
In response to this, the Government of Malawi has donated 25,000 metric tons of maize from the Strategic Grain Reserve for the relief operation as an initial response targeting the most affected areas. The United States is making an in-kind donation of pulses and Super Cereal – a fortified cereal blend – valued at US$ 7.8 million. UK aid funding of US$4.7 million from Britain’s Department for International Development (DFID) is covering the initial transport and distribution costs of the maize donated by the Government, and of the pulses and Super Cereal (known locally as Likuni Phala).
The first phase of the relief operation has targeted nearly 200,000 people in Chikhwawa, Machinga and Nsanje districts with rations of maize, pulses and Super Cereal.
Faced with a funding gap of US$30.8 million for the relief operation, WFP is appealing for urgent donations so that food can be procured and pre-positioned ahead of the rainy season when remote areas become hard to access. Acting now, ahead of the lean season from December to March will also allow WFP to buy food at advantageous rates.
“We are pleased with the strong support donors have shown thus far for the Government-led relief operation,” says WFP Representative and Country Director Abdoulaye Diop. “However, to get the food in place before the rains and before prices spike, we need more funding urgently.”
Prolonged dry spells ravaged this year’s harvest, weakening resilience and coping mechanisms in many homes. In some areas, this is the third consecutive year of drought. High food prices have also reduced the ability of households to access sufficient food from markets. The effects will be most severely felt in southern and central parts of the country.